Saturday, September 16 dawned sunny and beautiful. I know, because I watched it happen as I drove up I-295 en-route Patapsco Valley State Park for the annual TrailFest celebration of all things trail/outdoor related in the park. This huge event staged by the Friends of the Potomac Valley State Park, also supported by the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) and myriad sponsors, involved all sorts of outdoor activities over the weekend from trail running, kayaking, camping and yes, mountain bike racing in several flavors. There was endure racing, kids riding and XC racing on courses of differing lengths up to 42 miles on some of the most rugged, hilly trails in the mid-Atlantic area.
Wicked Wash Racing showed up to contend in the longest event of the weekend, the 42-miler XC. Maureen, Tom and Jeff had pre-ridden sections of the course in the weeks prior to the event and knew just how difficult the race would be. In all, there were nearly 5,000 feet of rocky, gnarly climbing in a “mere” 42 miles of race course. Six creek and river crossings made things interesting as the Patapsco River became their “touchstone”. Riding as a group, whenever they finished a fun descent down to the river they knew that another epic climb was imminent. Using a strategy of starting conservatively and working for a consistent all day pace, they continually picked off riders throughout the event.
Trail conditions could not have been more ideal. Our route through the various trail systems in the park could not have been in better shape thanks to hundreds of volunteer hours of brush cutting, deadfall clearing and drainage digging. The weather leading up to the event was “Goldilocks perfect”, not too wet/sloppy and not too dry/grainy…but just right with everything tacky enough for perfect grip in the turns. Racers were treated to east coast riding at its finest!
The WWR group picked up, rode with, and dropped a variety of racers along the way. It was tough riding and definitely took a toll on the field of riders. As the morning heated up into the humid 80’s more and more racers were left gasping or cramping (or both) alongside the trail. By keeping a steady, strong pace and tactically working not to blow up, Tom, Maureen and Jeff carefully watched nutrition and sucked down as much INFINIT as we could mix into our hydration packs at the aide stations.
The strategy worked to a large degree. Tom lasted just over 35 miles before succumbing to the course, the heat and the humidity…which may not sound like much, but is better than the majority of riders that day. Maureen finished strongest, plowing up the final mile long, steep climb to finish with a big grin on her face and impress the crowd at the finish line. Jeff was just a few seconds behind her with less of a smile on his face, but just as big a feeling of satisfaction to have successfully finished the challenging course. His 2nd place podium finish in the 60+ age group made the cold beer finish line welcome even better!