The View From "C" Class - 2010 NCHSA Series
Over the past two years, I've done a handful of hare scrambles and posted them up here. The first was in 2008 - Daniel's Ridge. I only did one that year. I had planned to do more, but it never worked out.
I did two more in 2009 NCHSA Series (North Carolina Hare Scramble Association) - Flat Rock, and Brown Jug. Flat Rock was quite memorable, aren't they all, though?
And now here it is 2010 and I've already done two races this year, Devil's Ridge and Mountain Challenge, the latter being the most recent.
So it looks like I might be able to swing a few more races this year, and as a result I decided instead of posting up a new thread for each one, which made sense when I was just doing one or two a year, I decided I would create a single thread to post my reports, thoughts, prep, etc.
One thing that is interesting in looking back over my report from 2008 is how new it all was to me, it really was an adventure in the sense that I did not have a good idea of what to expect and was totally unprepared for the difficulty of the event. The nervousness was very real, and the knots in my stomach leading up to it were nearly debilitating. As a result, I rode tense, and the resulting arm pump was literally numbing.
And for the two races in 2009, I was still pretty nervous leading into Flat Rock, and again, that race kicked my butt in terms of physical conditioning. I was learning that Daniel's Ridge was not an anomaly, these races are just plain HARD. Then for Brown Jug, I worked extra hard jogging and exercising in the heat of the day, because that race was in South Carolina in July in the hot afternoon baking sun. So I did my best to prepare myself in the same conditions, and it was STILL very difficult.
Then there was Devil's Ridge in March of 2010. That was a real killer, but the conditions in this race were more extreme than that of the others, being a very gnarly mud race, so while it was still very difficult, after it was all over, I did not get that deep muscle soreness that followed the other races. I have been exercising more, and doing a better job of preparing by riding the full 1.5 hours on a practice track at least once during the week before the race. I did that twice in the case of Devil's Ridge. I think that is helping?
My most recent race was NCHSA Round 2 - "Mountain Challenge" from last Sunday. This race was probably my best race yet, not in terms of results, but the track conditions were near perfect, the temperatures were near perfect, it was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.
Oh, before I talk about the race itself, I want to share my newest and most awesome farkle.
Before Devil's Ridge, I knew it was going to be a mudder, and so to help prepare, I turned my Michelin S12XC tire around, so the sharp edges would bite, while the rounded off ones would trail. In putting the wheel back together, I did something I never do - I ripped the valve stem in my $20 Ultra Heavy Duty tube. I went to inflate, and it just went pfffssssssst. Crap. This was Friday evening, so no need to panic or anything.
So I said, oh well, that sucks, I'll just grab the spare tube out of my pack. The spare was not UHD, but it would work, I'd just have to be more careful with the running pressure and don't go too low to pinch flat. So I pull the tire back off, remove the damaged UHD tube, and reassemble with the spare regular tube. I get it all back together, re-inflate, and hear pfffsssssst. WTF?
I pull it back apart and somehow pinched it on the rim lock. I have never messed up a tube during a tire change, and now twice in a row.
I managed to fish an older UHD tube out of a spare wheel that I had an old worn out knobby on, and the 3rd time was a charm.
Meanwhile, I'm thinking, this is the last straw, while I tore down the wheel, tore down the spare wheel with old rubber, and reinstalled the tire and tube for the 3rd time that night.
So I had been drooling over something called Tire Balls for a couple of years now, but the price has always kept me away. A got a little bonus at work and with the help of my experience of ruining two tubes in a row I decided to do it. They wouldn't be here for Devil's Ridge, of course, but I placed the order and they came the week after.
Tire Balls, front and rear:
The idea is that if one goes flat, the rest move around a little to take its place. You inflate when you install them, so installing the tire can be a little bit more difficult than a tube, but not that bad. They will lose air gradually over time, so every six months or so, pull the tire off and reset the pressure. You can run a very low pressure = very good traction, but no pinch flat. Also, no puncture or other flats either.
A special bead tool helps get that last little bit over:
With "Mountain Challenge" coming up the next weekend, I wanted to get at least one shake-down ride on them. I ended up getting two in, including a 1.5 hour practice session in. So far so good, they just work, no drama, no surprises, the tire felt great - responsive, good traction, all systems go.
NCHSA Round 2: Mountain Challenge
Last Sunday was Round 2 of the series, "Mountain Challenge." We were supposed to have Round 2 about 2 weeks prior at the infamous "Flat Rock," but it got rained out.
I got there around 11 am, found a place to park, and set up the EZ-up and privacy tent:
After that, I went to sign-up to get my helmet sticker and handle bar punch card. The helmet sticker is your race number with bar code on it, which they scan as you come through scoring. The scoring tent ends out the lap, and they have a nice LED display there where you can see your class position, and how many seconds you are back from the next guy in the your class.
After that, I decided I needed to check out the course some so I'd have some idea of what to expect. I walked about the first mile or so of the course. During this time, the mini's were racing, so I was hopping on and off the track, dodging the little buggers as they were zipping buy. I came upon one little fella who had gone over the side of the trail and was stuck there with the bike on top of him. I helped him up, dusted him off, helped to start his bike, and he went on his way. :lol3
The dirt was good, there were some nice steep climbs, but nothing too bad, the dirt had good traction and there weren't a lot of jagged rocks or anything. And while it was not wet except for a few isolated muddy spots, dust did not look like it was going to be a problem. Conditions looked really good. Satisfied, I walked back down to the pit area and watched the Pro, AA, A, and young B riders line up and start. They normally start at 12:15 but got started about 30 minutes late. That means our race which normally starts at 3:15 likely won't start on time. No big deal.
I went ahead and moved my bike up to the starting line and got it into position. I made a few clicks of suspension adjustment. Not much more I can do at this point, so I headed back to my pit area, drank some fluids, had a light lunch, and some fruit.
The big change from prior races is that I really don't have the bad pre-race jitters. I was wondering when they were going to come, because they always did. Don't get me wrong, there was a little pre-race anticipation, but not the knotted gut I usually experienced. Maybe I'm finally getting used to it, it's only taken 5 races. lol
On the starting line, the starter gives the riders meeting over the bull horn. Conditions are good. The track is fast. Be careful the first lap until you know what's coming up. Someone gives a prayer, then they play the National Anthem. At the closing lines of the anthem, everyone fires up their bikes and you hear a lot of hootin' and hollerin'. :lol3
Everyone is stoked. They give a few minutes for everyone to warm up their bikes and then the starter waves the green flag overhead for everyone to cut their engines. We start in rows, one class per row, at 1 minute intervals, 12 rows. I'm in row 8.
As the rows get flagged off, the starter yells 30 seconds. Then 15 seconds. Then 10 seconds. The flag can fly anytime after 10 seconds.
Here's my row at the "10 second" announcement. There I am in the middle, beside the Kawasaki, KTM - white and black helmet, tinted goggles:
I get a pretty decent start, I think I was in 6th or so. I did not have a particularly good race, though, so that would be the highest I would climb. :lol3 So I think was around 6th, it's hard to tell in all that mayhem. And I held that pretty good for the first mile or so, dropping back a few places, but not many. Then right near the bottom of a steep uphill, I somehow got sideways, lost momentum, and the bike was wanting to fall toward the downhill side which was pretty steep. I quickly hopped off the bike on the downhill side and did everything I could to save it or at least push it over so it fell on the uphill side. It was a valiant effort, but the hill won in the end and it fell to the downward side. So I said to myself, "Oh crap, not this again," thinking back to the mud race at Devil's Ridge a few weeks before where I must have picked up my bike half a dozen times. At least I was still fresh at the beginning of the race, and so I hunkered down and hoisted the pig up from the downhill side and got it roughly pointed in the right direction.
About this time the rest of the positions in my class all go flying by since we were still fairly tight being so close to the start. So I get sorted and get going, get on up the hill with no more drama, then try to control the uncontrollable heart rate from the exertion of picking up the bike on the hill so I take it a little easy for a bit. I eventually recover and had a pretty good race after that. But it was a quick course, and by the time I got going again, I was only able to make up a few positions. I did catch and pass a few, but I lost too much time on the hill so early everyone had too far a lead on me to make it up. I finished out 17th out of 24 at least. But even so, it was still a good time, the course was great, it was well laid out with a good variety - some nice fast flowing, some tighter stuff, great hill climbs, a few places with some gnarly roots and rocks, good traction on 95% of it, and hardly any dust.
So I didn't bring home any hardware this time, but still had fun. Actually, while I would like to finish better, I'm fine with that finish. I think it's just going to take a while to learn to pick up the speed and be safe about it without riding too far over my head. The other times I have brought home trophies have all been mud races, and I've always said what I lack in speed, I make up for in tenacity. I seem to do better in those races of attrition, rather than races where all-out speed is more important. I gotta work on that. :deal
Of note in this race, while it was still tough physically, it didn't wipe me out like the others. Not sure if it's the pre-race 1.5 hour non-stop simulated race practice rides that are doing it, or my general physical conditioning is improving or what. I have been working out more, eating better, and have lost 15 lbs since January. So I'm sure that helps. I want to keep going in the right direction, it's great on Monday to not feel like I got hit by a truck on Sunday. :deal
Here's a couple photos of me nearing the end of a lap from the track photographer:
Post race cool down:
I hope to get the helmet cam edited and posted soon. I've covered up with work this past week though, and it is not done yet.
So I'm thinking this race might be a bit of a turning point in terms of attitude. I was far less tense than usual, and the whole event seemed more like a ride at the local spot with the guys, than the knotted gut intense arm pumping frame of mind I brought into most of my other races. I'm thinking this has to be a good thing - maybe I'll be able to settle down and ride smarter, looser, and generate some flow instead of riding tight and tense.
That's what I'd like to take away from this race, anyway.
The next race is NCHSA Round 3: Brushy Mountain, which is next weekend.
That's it for now.
Oh, BTW, TireBalls are now race-proven and Nobrakes-endorsed. :clap
NCHSA Round 2: Mountain Challenge - Lap 1 Helmet Cam
Here's the helmet cam from the first lap at the Mountain Challenge. Go easy on me, I'm still trying to figure all this out, one race at a time. :nod
<object width="800" height="530"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="movie" value="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11253221&server=vimeo.co m&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_port rait=1&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1" /><embed src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11253221&server=vimeo.co m&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_port rait=1&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="800" height="530"></embed></object><p><a href="http://vimeo.com/11253221">2010 NCHSA Rd 2 - Mountain Challenge</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user555192">bsd512</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p><p>First lap of the NCHSA round 2 hare scramble - Mountain Challenge. I really liked this course, it was a lot of fun.</p>
Not bad at all. Almost feels like you need to start feeling a little sense of urgency in your riding though.
Thanks for the video...It looks as if you are going pretty slow most of the time, but then again, being on the bike and feeling the bike go every which direction with all the ruts, roots, grooves, is completely different than watching the video. Easier said than done...it is inspiring to watch you do it though.
I still don't see how you keep on the right trail...that would seem like the hard part...it's one thing to follow someone, but alot of times you are out there by yourself trying to figure out which groove to take.
Keep us posted with more videos as you progress up the ranks.:clap Oh, have you ever tried the chest mounting of your video camera? I've heard that gives a good perspective too.
Eating right, training ????...you're going to be a real racer at this rate...:D
great job and thanks for the video !
Nice report. Love the helmet cam. That hill that collected everybody must be one of those spots that are steeper than they look on camera. Nice job, looks like fun.
im tryin to watch the video! its not letting me!
ok got it..... jeeebus you guys and your TREES..... those things make me nervous as hell! That and the little bridges - hell all the California riders would be running into stuff and falling down the cliffs all day long!
looks like a BLAST though....
bad ass dude. ill have to watch the whole helmet cam later.
So right now, I'd need to increase my average speed by 3 or 4 MPH to win my class. Still doesn't sound like a lot, but carrying 3 or 4 more MPH through that tight stuff is going to take some serious effort. I think I can pick it up and go a bit faster in the more open sections. But each course is different and never having raced many of these courses before, the first time I've seen these is the first lap of the race, so I'm a little reluctant to go too fast not knowing what's coming up around the next bend.
But speed is definitely something I need to work on. Actually, it's probably technique that I need to work on, and then the speed will follow. I've been trying to stand more, and I think that is helping. But in the excitement of the race, it's easy to fall back on old (bad) habits. So I think I just need to suck it up, use proper technique even if I'm slower at first, and eventually the speed will come.
Your comment on the trails is apropos because one fella got a broken arm in the morning race by taking a wrong turn and ended up going the wrong way down the track later on and had a head-on.
But I didn't find it too hard to stay on course. It's pretty well marked. The problem spots are usually at a crossroads. They usually have yellow tape blocking the wrong way, but if someone blows through, the tape comes down, and that makes it hard for the next guy to figure out which way to go.
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