Where were you this weekend? What did you do? I did my first solo 6 hour endurance mountain bike race. Jealous?
Did you know that 2 of the best off road endurance races are held just a few miles from your favorite bike shop? Sure enough, Anne Springs Close Greenway is the home of about 9 miles worth of top notch single track trails and the host of the 6 Hour Grind race every spring, and the Tree Shaker 6 and 12 hour race in the Fall.
I’ve done plenty of races and events in the past. But this one was the biggest challenge of my life. I thought it would be interesting to do the 6 hour race on a single speed… against guys on multi speed bikes. Hey, not going for a win here. Just the experience.
Team Tailwind included Dan Kimball, Marcus Barton, David Booth and me racing in the solo men’s category and Scott Bennett/ Dean Hagey racing in the duo category and the first ever race for either of them. Talk about a trial by fire. Dan was riding a Niner Jet 9 29er, while Marcus, Dave, and Scott were riding Jamis D29 Pro 29ers, Dean was riding his Jamis Dakota 26er. I rounded out the group by riding on my Niner One 9 single speed 29er with my American Classic wheels set up to work on a single speed drive train (this let me ride about 1.5 lbs lighter than normal.)
The race actually starts about ½ mile from the official start line. Gotta give enough room for everyone to split up before hitting the single track. I knew my place, so I hung in the back. Plus I wanted to get some footage with my GoPro camera. Would have worked out great… but I forgot to turn it on until later in the lap.
Lap 1 went off without a hitch. Passed a few people. Got passed by a few people. I finished the lap feeling fairly well, and headed out for lap 2 without a stop at the pit tent. Lap 2, I was starting to understand what kind of day it was going to be, and did end up stopping for a minute to get more food after that lap. Finished lap 3 and headed back out for lap 4. This was about when I started getting lapped by the 1st – 7th place finishers (including Dan in 3rd and Marcus in 7th who were setting a blistering pace.)
By the end of lap 4, I was actually contemplating cutting out early and ending my day as soon as I finished the lap. As a matter of fact… I did. I heard that “beep” when I crossed the check point and figured that was the last time I would hear that. My legs felt fine, but my arms were numb and battered from all of the bumping over rocks and roots for the last 4+ hours. I was so delirious that I barely remembered half of that 4th lap. Notice how I keep calling it my 4th lap… not my final lap. I sat down, told everyone I was done, that I had nothing left in the tank. But then I heard that Dave had gone back out a few minutes before I had gotten there. Then I heard someone else say “cutoff for the final lap in 5 minutes.” I made the best decision I have made in a long time… I grabbed my water and helmet and hit the trail one last time. I figured it didn’t matter how fast I did it. Just as long as I did it. That way I knew I wouldn’t be going home with a “what if I…” or “maybe I should have, could have…” I would go home knowing I put every bit of my heart and soul into my race. And I did. I spent the rest of the weekend knowing I did my best. 28th place. 45 miles in a little over 6 hours. Total time off the bike… around ½ hour. 3300 ft climbing. Yeah… I’m happy. I got home Saturday night and swore that I would never do it again. One and done. But now… 4 days later… I am actually looking forward to the 6 Hour Grind in the Spring… and am even thinking about doing the full 12 hour Tree Shaker next year.
At the end of the day our group did pretty well. In the solo category, Dan came in 3rd, Marcus 7th, Dave 25th and me 28th. In the duo category Scott and Dean came in 13th.
Next year, we are looking for more team mates. Men and women. Solo and duo teams. Do you have a sense of adventure? Are you wanting to push your physical boundaries? Are you deranged enough to race a 6 or 12 hour mountain bike race? Good… cause we are looking for YOU. What you get? A tent to store your gear in, water, access to tools, food and a sense that you are not alone in your quest to push (pronounced “punish”) your body. Come on out and join us. It’s all about the ride.