VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. headed up to Fair Hill, Maryland this past Sunday and took on one of the MASS Superseries races at the 2011 Fair Hill Classic. The team was represented well, with John, Chris and Kathleen racing across their respective Sport categories and Emily (yes, that’s me) taking on the “Fair Hill 50” endurance race. It was a long, hot day in the saddle, and didn’t quite go as I would have liked, but at the end of the day, I still had a smile on my face thanks to an incredibly fun race course, great friends and great teammates.
The day started early for me, as my race went off at 8am and Fair Hill is a good 2 hours from where I live. So yup, you guessed it, 5am departure time. Early. At least I had been able to convince my friend Adam to race too so I had someone to ride up with in the pre-dawn hours. John, with his race at 8:45, had the smart idea and had headed up the day before with Tom. Either way – we got to the course in time to check in, get ready and for me to get my typical pre-race nerves. I guess pre-race nerves are good, but they were bad at Fair Hill. Possibly because this was a last-minute race I hadn’t exactly planned on and I was riding the course … all 50-miles of it, blind. Throw in some top-notch competition and you have some great pre-race jitters. They started the enduro in two waves, so a little after 8am I headed out on my 50-mile adventure.
The course at Fair Hill is awesome – lots of winding single track, some quick punchy climbs and a few technical sections. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work – the constant twisting and turning of the course almost made me dizzy! I started out decently toward the front, riding near some girls I knew. It’s always nice to start out with a group, except when you’re in the lead and then the nerves kick in, since one wrong turn, one spin-out over a root and boom! You’ve lost your spot and have to wait until the train of folks passes to start riding again. I had my first mis-step when I turned a corner in too big a gear and was faced with a steep, baby-head covered incline up to a bridge with an equally steep, baby-head covered descent on the other side. Awesome. I made it about half-way up before my rear tire skidded out on one of the smooth cobbles and had to unclip and run the rest of the way up. Note to self: pre-riding eliminates issues such as these….next time, pre-ride….
Regardless, I kept on, trying to navigate the twists, turns and unexpected obstacles in the course best I could. While the course at Fair Hill is fun, it’s also fairly challenging, especially when riding it for the first time. It keeps you on your toes and makes you think and focus on your riding. About 15-16 miles in, I was feeling pretty good, when I heard the sound every racer hates to hear, the slow “sisssssssssssss” of a leak in my tire. Awesome. I pulled off to the side and looked at my front tire to find a massive, industrial strength staple (think staple-gun) impaling my tire. A STAPLE. Sure, maybe on the road, but on a mountain bike trail? What gives? My only thought was that it was an errant staple from the course-markers that were stapled to trees along the course. Just my luck. Note to self: Switch tires over to tubeless ASAP. Flat fixed with the help of another racer who was nice enough to stop, and I was on my way again, digging down to find some extra energy to try and play a little catch up as I had seen two girls pass while I was fixing my staple-mutilated tire. The trail kept turning and twisting, with one crazy hike-a-bike and then hit some nice smooth single-track along a creek. I made it through a section of berms and “whoop-de-do’s” safely but then when I was coming in, perhaps a little too hot around a washed-out corner, I caught my bar on *something* and before I could even un-clip and make a valiant effort at self-preservation, I was tail over tea-kettle, and my bike, again, on top of me. It took a second for me to shove the bike off, shake the dirt and stars out of my head and start riding. That lasted, oh, about 50 feet before I realized my stem was crooked and my GPS was gone. Awesome x2. Thankfully, I had a multi-tool with me, and after a few quick turns and tweaks, my stem was straight again, but then I had to turn around and ride back to the site of my epic little tumble to retrieve my GPS from the dirt. Whew. Okay, time to really get moving again. My motivation was slightly dinged as I had to get back on, and pass back a few folks who had passed me while I was fixing my bike. The course got a bit more hilly toward the end, including one very rooty and washed out “Upchuck Hill” as a spectator called it as I made my way up. Soon, I thought I was home-free with at least my first lap, until I took a little up and down into a creek too fast and again heard that horrible “sissssssssssssss” sound as I pinch-flatted. Not good. Note to self: TUBELESS. I was out of tubes and probably at least two miles from the finish. It was going to be a long walk. A few cyclists passed, asking if I wanted a patch, but at that point, I had come to the realization that my race was over. Two flats and a pretty good crash, that while I was riding OK, had me limping as I walked and a bruise already forming on my left quad. (That’s going to look great at the office this week…) But after having limped and wheeled my bike about half-a-mile, I was saved, again by the friendly cyclist who had stopped to help me earlier, who happened to have an extra 29er tube (he was intelligent and running tubeless…), so 2nd tube changed and then it was just a short jaunt to the start/finish, where I was greeted by John and Chris – who had rocked their respective races. As I pulled through, I noticed that my cleat was coming lose, and John ran over to help me fix it, while Chris ran off to grab me an extra tube just in case my 3rd flat of the day happened. I gulped some water down, and got to see Kathleen finish strong in the Sport class before taking a deep breath and heading out for one more lap.
The second lap went worlds smoother than my first. I think my only “challenge” was a dropped chain at one point and having to navigate past a few of the beginner and novice racers who were out on the shared sections of the course. Not too bad all in all. I was definitely tired and ready to be done. A coke and a smiling face at an aid station about 12-miles from the finish gave me the final boost I needed to navigate the last bit of the course and finally finish. While John, Chris and Kathleen had had to take off, Adam had finished his 50-miles of fun and was waiting when I finished. He mentioned being surprised I finished when I did considering my first lap time (3:13) but I definitely tried to make up for it considering I came in at 2:47 for my second lap. In the end, while I was 15th going into my second lap, I finished 10th overall, at just under 6-hours and considering how rough my first lap was and how I came the closest to DNF’ing I had in a while, I was just happy to be finished. Now the challenge would be walking anywhere as my hip was not happy with me after my little tumble….that was healed up though with Maryland Crabcakes and some summer-recovery drinks at Woody’s Crab Shack in North East, Maryland on our way home.
Aside from my long day out on the course, John rode a great race and finished 5th in Sport Men 40+, Chris came in 8th in Sport Men 19-29 and Kathleen finished 11th in Sport Women U40. It was a tough, hot, challenging day out there, and the team represented well!!