Dec 2, 2007

Camp Eagle - The Race

Bit sore this morning from the multiple scrapes and deep bruises running up the right side of my body. That wipeout left a mark.

Myself and Brian, another racer from Sugar Cycles, arrived at Camp Eagle just after midnight and slept in the vehicle. At 0845hrs, standing on the line and looking around I recognized some people from 24hrs of Dirt, the Fall XC race at RHR and of course riders I have met in the local community, good to see familiar faces.

Gun went off and I jumped up to the front hanging around 2nd and 3rd position but changed my mind on that positioning about 15mins in after making a couple of mistakes on course direction since I had never ridden the course before. I dropped back to 6th or 7th so I could watch the leaders and get a better sense of the course layout and also see what kind of pace people were going to ride.

Overall the pace in the lead group was pretty strong but not super-freak, kind of what you would expect of a 5+ hour race. The trail was really well marked and very slick, quite technical and a good amount of climbing. You really had to apply a lot of finesse to get up the rock faces and not spin-out on the almost icy-slick conditions. The off-camber wet limestone was hazardous to ride, generally I made a go at everything, sometimes I cleaned it, sometimes I didn't.

At approx the 12mile mark I was ripping down a steep little pitch and came up pretty quickly on a course marshal recording numbers, he yelled for my number, I turned back to look at him to yell it back and as the words were leaving my mouth my front wheel hit a rock and I was Superman-ing through the air. Hit the rocks really hard, saw a bright flash of white light and did an instant assessment of overall damage, got up on hands and knees to see the rapid drops of blood coming from my eye/wherever area. As I was picking up my bike to check for damage, still a bit wobbly, the kid taking numbers looked a bit concerned when he saw all the blood. I told him to radio ahead for someone to be at the transition area with some alcohol swabs and a butterfly band-aid. Getting to the transition area was interesting as my trail timing was off a bit, my lines weren't as clean and I still felt a bit wobbly, my head was throbbing and I was thinking it might have cost me the race. My shoulder had limited range and my hip hurt on every pedal stroke, charming. At the transition area, another young fella gave me a quick swab and said maybe stitches, I voted for butterfly band-aid and I wanna get back at it. He did a good job. Unfortunately between the wipeout, the after-effect and the first aid I lost several minutes to the silliness which was completely my fault.

The next two laps were pretty fun as I was starting to learn the course and get a better sense of the correct amount of gas required to clean the slick limestone. Generally I was just pleased to be ripping it on a well designed and challenging course. It was a joy to be out there with some other passionate riders who were up to facing some tough conditions. Obviously there was some strong competition out there. A racing time of 5:16:48.01 gave me a fifth place overall which was pretty good I guess, the placing isn't as important to me as is having run an intelligent race plan and I ran a pretty good race. My biggest disappointment was losing the minutes to the bloody-eye saga, but other racers had their share of setbacks due to mechanicals and such as well. My biggest pleasure was the last 45mins of the race, slamming it out as hard as I could in order to have no regrets.

The event was really well organized, well laid out and had an excellent feel to it. Kudos to the race organizers. Sitting around after the race eating burgers, drinking beer and waiting for awards with some notable racers from around Texas was time well spent, the marathon vibe was in full evidence, good riders, good people.

I was surprised to see only 30 or so racers at the start line. Someone else explained it to me as such... the one lap race at Camp Eagle in the Fall XC series had really put the hurt on a lot of people so three long laps were scaring a lot of people away. Understandable, its a tough course and certainly not for everyone. All the more reason to congratulate the folks who did show up.

Glad I went. See you all at the next race.

And in case you can't understand what this picture is, that would be a shot I just grabbed of my bike in the garage using my iPhone. It's my rear XTR dérailleur - was it muddy out there, uhhmmmmmm, yes.