Mack set a challenging 10-mile course that ran the trails on both the ski resort and State Forest property (with some sweet trails on the later being constructed by the wonderful folks at WNYMBA). Yeah, the initial uphill grunt is a bit of a heart-rate-spiker, but after that the flowing, technical singletrack is some of the finest track I’ve ever ridden at my lactate threshold. If you’re an experienced bike handler, you can really make up time in the miles of flowy, twisty, turny, rooty, rocky singletrack the race course offers. And bombing down the final technical descent to the start/finish is a real hoot!
I raced co-ed duo with Dirt Rag alumnus Carol Clemens, who has been charging hard on the racing scene this year. Me? Welll…. my last race was in April, so I kinda, sorta was just here to have fun, get in a good workout and soak up the hippy dippy E-ville vibe.
Or so I though. My illusions were shattered when Carol turned a smoking fast 1:07 first lap, including the 2-minute LeMans running start. At that point I knew it was “game on,” and I pegged my heart rate up the starting hill, and kept my foot on the gas the rest of the lap. I managed a 0:59:50 lap, and the race was on.
After four rider rotations I checked the standings, and Carol and I were in third place, just 40 seconds out of second place. The first place team was out of our reach, but we had a shot at second. During lap five Carol was on the course, riding against the Steve Tooringian, the male rider on the second place team. A check of the official timer told me that when they got back, I’d be riding the sixth and final lap against their female rider Amy Putnam. This was going to be exciting!
Steve crossed the line at 5:09:45 and I waited. I knew he’d cross before Carol, it was just a matter of how far in front, and could I make up the gap? There’s Carol! It’s 5:18:26, and I’ve got to make up 8:41 on Amy, if we’re going to overtake them and capture second place.
I roar up the hill, passing folks with less motivation on their final lap. My heart rate is pegged, and the legs are screaming. I’m hurtin’ and not moving as fast as I was on lap #1, but I keep telling myself that I can do it. As the miles roll by, I keep looking ahead for signs of my nemesis, but despite passing several weary riders, there’s no sign of the woman on the white Specialized. Still I crank on, asking my legs to give whatever they’ve got left to give. If I can just catch her before the downhill….
But it’s not to be. I drop into the final descent, never having seen the second place rider. I try to enjoy the bomber trail as much as possible, but the taste is bittersweet. As I roll across the line Carol is waiting to greet me, along with Steve from the second place team, who shakes my hand as I roll off the course. 30 seconds, they tell me. I finished 30 seconds behind. My tired legs and aching back tell me I should avoid second guessing myself, and just chalk it up to the other team being a little bit faster on this particular day. Anyhow, the excitement was worth the price of admission.
Carol and I stuck around for the awards, as did Steve and Amy. The first place team must have been on a tight schedule, I think they had a training ride scheduled for later in the evenning: