That race was BRUTAL!!!!!
Michaux State Forest, known for its abundance of rock, was the setting for the race. The weather has been wet recently and the forecast called for a coins toss chance of showers the day of the race. If this prediction resulted in rain, the soft, wet trails were sure to make a painful race pure hell. DKEG was looking for some company and I decided to venture north for my first mountain bike race in Nor-Chaux. I've done the Iron Cross a couple times now and ridden the trails with Camps and the Big Dog a few times. The Maximus, however, was to be my first go at a fat tire free-for-all.
The clouds were heavy with moister on the drive up and their bounty was released as we pulled into the empty parking lot. It appeared most people decided for the comfort of a warm dry home as we started to unpack. Jeff was parked to our left, Dan and a buddy parked to our right. We just shook our heads as we laughed at the stupidity of racing on such a day. As David and I prepared to register, I noticed a severe lack of funds in my wallet. "No worries, I'll just write a check" I thought and went to grab my checkbook........that was removed last Friday to pay for a radiator. This lapse in preparation may have been a sub-conscious desire to be somewhere else, anywhere else as long as it was warm and dry. David, not wanting to suffer alone produced an additional $60 bucks from his wallet and there was now no turning back. As we registered the empty lot became more crowed and I can only assume these people wanted to put off the misery as long as possible.
Shortly before 9, I lined up with the single gear crowd and knew the day was going to be hard. If the trails didn't punish me, guys like Topher and Tomi would. A strong pack of 9 or 10 took off and I decided to play it safe and keep my pace under control. It was going to be a long day and I needed to keep plenty in my tank for the second, more difficult half of the race. The trails on the first 20 miles were tough but established trails. The first 20 actually went by pretty quickly. I cruised through aid station 1 with plenty of water. I stopped for a quick refill at 2 and headed into the "good stuff" Camp talked about. This "good stuff" was mostly FRESH CUT and soft....very soft and muddy and nasty and did I mention muddy. Flat sections of trail that should have been used for recovery were hard, slow and energy draining. I was actually praying for a gravel road climb after going through long stretches of this fresh cut stuff. Then there was the exposed moonscape rock descent through an area that had recently been forested. Wet slimy uber technical rock garden that went on for a long time. By the end of it my knickers were soiled and not from the mud. ;) Then, let's see, there was more fresh cut soft ass trail...that was muddy. Slimy peanut butter mud that would not hold your tires in a turn. Trail just moved away and sent you in every direction through the turns...and some straight sections.
Then there were the nasty ATV trails and their loose baseball size rocks that beat the hell out of your body. We hit several of these during the race, sometimes you'd climb one, sometimes you'd descend one. The final long climb was on of these ATV trails and I really thought that they would take it easy on us after we got to the top of the climb. Wrong, the course designer decided to take us down a final rock garden, not unlike the rocky sections of Salamander, for the final 1/2 to 3/4 mile. God, that sucked. I was cursing the sadistic bastard that thought this section would be a good idea. It was here I saw David, who peeled off and did the 20 mile course due to a hurt wrist. He was taking pictures of me as I cursed this rock strewn section of trail and the little shit who added it to the race. David told me I was doing great and was in 3rd place. I knew this had to be wrong because I only passed 2 guys from the led pack. There were about 8-10 guys in that group. Anyway, I pushed hard to the end and ended up in 6th or 7th place. I was just happy to finish. When I saw the other guys line up at the start, I knew a podium spot would be near impossible, so, I tried to ride smart throughout the day. I'm glad I did because there were too many places to get seriously hurt on that course. I pulled into the finish line, poured a beer and was glad to have the race behind me. Geez, that was the hardest freaking 40 miles I've EVER ridden.
Big thanks to my buddy DKEG for the encouragement, the $60 bucks to race and the pictures.