The Stewart Super Six Pack ... six hours in the muddy singletrack of Stewart Forest in Montgomery, NY. Awesome day and awesome race put on by the folks from MTBNJ.com. I had a ball. The course was super fun and super muddy and super wet. And did I mention muddy?
All in all, I had a pretty good day. I certainly enjoyed myself. Any time you do a race that features a "Beer and Babes" stop, you can't help but have fun.
As far as how the race went, it was kind of a mixed bag. Six hours is a long time to race, and six hours in the mud on a course with lots of short power climbs when you have only one gear can put a pretty good beating on you. I kind of knew it was going to be a long day when the moment they said go, a bunch of guys took off form the start line like they were only going ot be racing for two hours. I didn't get so much aught up in all that, but I also couldn't just sit back and get dropped that early, especially since we almost immediately ran down the open women who'd gone off a minute before us. There was a lot of singletrack and it was going to be tough enough to stay near the front without getting bottled up that early. So I probably went out a little hot. But that wasn't so bad. I was feeling pretty good, in fact.
My problems started in the third lap, about 23 miles into the race. I blew out my rear tire, and the sidewall got ripped open. I was thinking my day was over, but I kind of went through the motions to replace the tube anyway. The problem was, the tire was so muddy that it took me forever to get it off the rim. My levers just kept slipping, no matter what I did. Eventually, I worked it out, but I was really thinking that I was dead in the water. First, I'd already seen at least a fifteen singlespeeders pass by, which left me pretty sure I was now out of the top 20. Second, that hole in the sidewall looked kind of large, which meant I was probably one root away from blowing out again if I did get it going again.
But I didn't want to quit, so after I finally got it fixed (total downtime was about 23 minutes), I got back on the course and started to chase. It was actually a lot of fun -- I figured I was pretty much out of it, so I could just let go and have fun. And when I started to pass a lot of other riders (some SSers, some Open class) I started feeling a little bit of momentum. I figured I was riding on borrowed time -- I expected the tire to blow out at any moment the rest of the day. And the longer it held together, the more I decided to try to race again.
And that's probably what led to my next problem. I kind of overcooked myself over the next lap and a half. By the time I entered my fifth lap, my legs were pretty tired. I'd been riding everything -- all the hills, all the mud, all the puddles -- all day long and by lap 5, I was feeling the effects. Any one of those would have been okay alone, but considering the course was getting more slick and slippery as the day went on, it really started to add up.
Add to that the ongoing issue I've had with my left quad all season, and I was primed for some serious cramping. And it started some time after 45 miles. It slowed me down pretty bad and I had to stop a few times to stretch out.
My original goal had been to get six laps. I kind of gave up on that when I flatted, but as i got near the end of my fifth lap, I started to realize that I still could do it if I wanted. The problem was that I was pretty cramped. The thought of ten more miles wasn't all that attractive. So I did what I thought was the best thing I could do -- I gave myself no chance to think about it, and just rolled through the Start/Finish so I automatically started a new lap. Then I had to do it or get a DNF!
Did it hurt? Oh yeah, it hurt. Did my legs hold out? Nope. They started to feel like I was being stabbed in the quads with every pedal stroke with about 2 miles to go. But did I care? Not in the least! I met my goal on a day when for all intent and purposes I should have been done 35 miles before! I did more miles with a ripped tire than without it. I even managed to get close to the top ten again -- I clawed my way back to 12th. And that felt like a win yesterday!
Despite all that stuff, though, I will always remember this race as a wildly fun day. Everything about the race was fun. The course was well laid out and challenging for a six hour race. And the fans and other riders were all really supportive. I would have had fun out there no matter what. In the end of the day, I went up against mud, water, slick rocks and mechanicals and hung on for 60 miles. Sometimes you're the fly and sometimes you're the windshield. Yesterday, I was the fly, but I didn't mind. I buzzed around for as long as I could and came out with another great racing memory!