Sunday, May 6, 2012

Iron Hill '12 ...

Headed out to Iron Hill Park in Delaware for this year's edition of the Iron Hill Endurance Race. I've raced at this venue probably more than any other over the years. I think I've only missed it once or twice since 2002. I used to race the "regular" distances, but since 2008 I've only done the Endurance class, and now the last three years I've done it in the singlespeed category.

Iron Hill is a funny kind of course -- every year, I'm surprised by how technical it is. I think my selective memory chooses instead to focus on the flow. Because Iron Hill has lots of flow. That's what makes it odd -- tons of flow interrupted by nasty momentum sucking rock gardens and climbs. But make no mistake about it - this place will challenge you all day long and reward you for letting loose and staying off the brakes.

Before I get to this year's edition, I had a bit of an adventure yesterday during a pre-ride I did in Wissahickon to get the Misfit dialed in after swapping out the gear from last week's SSAP. I was riding along a section above the Inn, and bounced off a rock and, well, the top photo shows what happened next. I was lucky enough to only slide out on the right side (because of the sudden uneven weight distribution.) No injuries, but it was kind of a freaky thing. This handlebar was less than a year old! Snapped off right at the stem. And it had apparently started cracking a while before, too (part of the crack is darker than the rest, which means it's weathered, so it's been exposed for a while. I guess I missed it because it was so close to the stem.)

Luckily, I had another bar at home. It's much wider and has much less of a sweep to it. The NuBar was pretty extreme -- a 140 bar with a 15 degree sweep. By contrast, the Salsa Moto Ace I replaced it with is about 30 mm wider and has only a 7 degree sweep. But it was a replacement bar on short notice, so it was good enough. I may trim it down, but then again maybe I won't. It actually felt pretty good all day! Took a little getting used to at first, but I wasn't even thinking about it at all after the first lap.

Anyway, as for today's race ... it was long, hard, muddy, and lots of fun!

The singlespeed class started along with the Open Men's class in one large group. I was lucky in my positioning -- I rolled through the start/finish area after the prologue section in the first train of riders, probably sitting near the front of all singlespeeders. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the first lap that I even saw another singlespeeder. There were plenty of geared riders passing me in the first lap, though, including insanely fast women's leaders Cheryl Sornson and Selene Yeager  (whose class started two minutes after mine.)

I was feeling pretty good in most sections, but my heart rate was going nuclear on the hills for some reason. This has happened twice now this season and I don't quite know why. Maybe it's improper warm-up or something, but I was actually dizzy on the last big climb of the lap. That wasn't good. I decided my best strategy was to pay a little more attention and if I started feeling bad, so just take it easy for a bit. And it was going to have to be all about feel today, too, because like a dumbass I left my Garmin sitting at home.

So I kept my focus on how I was feeling on the longer climbs. But eventually the lightheadedness gave way to the slog of riding through so much mud on the bottom of the course. And there was a lot of mud! Down along the spot where the course runs along 95, the mud was ankle deep and super slick and greasy and this went on for just about a mile or so. In fact I lost control twice over the course of the day, once quite painfully. My front tire slid sideways into a v-drop section I was trying to ride around and I endo'd over the bars, but I pinned my leg between the bar and the top-tube and when I tried to get up, it pinned harder. That hurt like hell! But luckily I was able to get out of it and keep going.

The first few laps were pretty steady if not particularly fast. I knew on the first lap it wouldn't be like last year when the course was dry. The lap times were going to be longer, and it would be a long day if I wanted to go for my original plan of six laps. I knew right away that seven would be out of the question -- it was just too hard to go fast, and seven would be a stretch even in ideal conditions the way the course was run today. So I settled in and punched the clock for a long day at the office.

The laps kind of all blended together -- ups and downs, pedal stroke after pedal stroke. And I'm perfectly happy about that. Why? Because the laps all felt the same, meaning I didn't feel like my legs were going to explode at the end of the race. I drank a ton of water all day (I even used a Camelbak which I very rarely do in races.) And because of that high heart rate issue early, I was focusing on keeping my whole effort dialed back whenever I could. And together, those things seemed to work in my favor today. I mean, sure, I was very tired at the end of the day and had to even convince myself to go back out for a 6th lap after coming through the start/finish with just three minutes to go before the four hour mark.

But ultimately, I was glad I did, because I actually managed to move up a few spots on that last lap. IN the end, I crossed the line and stopped the clock with 6 full laps (plus a short prologue lap) in just about four hours and 51 minutes, good enough for 6th place in the SS field. I was completely happy with that result on such a tough day, especially considering I was able to avoid cramps all day. I felt twingy a few times, but nothing serious, and that was a nice change from my usual experience on a course like this.

2012 Iron Hill Endurance Singlespeed Results 
A footnote on today's race -- apparently, it was a really difficult experience for some out there today. I heard a few stories about people becoming very frustrated with all the mud and rocks, especially among the beginner classes. Then two friends of mine, Mark and Dustin, interrupted their own race today to help a girl who had hit the wall after some difficult sections. They calmed her down and walked with her for a while to help her get back on track. This bares mentioning because it's exactly the kind of thing we should celebrate about our riding community. Both those guys probably sacrificed a lap and a few positions, but that wasn't what they were thinking at all. They saw a fellow rider in trouble and gave up their own races to help out. And that attitude is not the exception really - I see that willingness to help one another out all the time during races, and I think it's one of the best things about this sport. We generally seem to appreciate and support one another. Sure, there are a few assholes here and there, but they're not typical. In general, what Mark and Dustin did is what we all aspire to, and personally, I just wanted to give them a shout out. In my opinion, the best performance of the day!

1 comment:

  1. Yes I raced too, beginner class, could have done better, dropped chain twice, and lost control on one DH section (the one after boneshaker)