Monday, June 29, 2009

Big Bear 09

Spearman is right, I do have my own tale to tell. I've neglected a post about Big Bear for no good reason except laziness, so, here goes.........

The team changed a little from last year. Shannon was busy with "dog stuff", so, we decided to go with a 5 man team instead of a Co-Ed team. DaveG, DKEG, Frank, Jason and I were to race in Hazelton WVa on June 13-14th. Somehow I got "elected" team captain again and after some spirited debate a team name was chosen. The Nitro Burning Juggernauts was born as we felt the name represented the level of intensity each member would bring to the race......... Alright, maybe that was a bit much. Actually, David just liked the word "Juggernaut" and we vetoed all of his Italian themed names once again.

As the race grew near, one of the teammates was oddly silent as the organizational emails flew around. A few of us discussed his "silence" while on rides and figured he was just too busy at work to respond to the barrage of spam like joking interspersed with a modicum of real information. Finally, a week away, we all gather for Franks annual BBQ and Jason informs us he just isn't "feeling it" and has been talking with Carlo about acting as his proxy. Carlo informs us about several time constraints of his own and we keep him in mind as we look for someone with a more flexible schedule. Enter the Big Dog.

I was really surprised when Darius signed on to race. Lap racing is something he never expressed any real interest in and he can be a bit "particular" when it comes to the trails he likes to ride. Still, I was excited, he's a strong rider, a good friend and would make a nice addition to the team. Of course, as captain, I had to contend with all his contractual demands. Most were reasonable enough, but, I had to draw the line at the Swedish masseuse, she had to go....if he wasn't willing to share. He did find an alternative and I think it all worked out.

The rest of the team was comprised of the usual suspects. DaveG brought his "better training through technology" approach. If he can't train more, he's going to train more efficiently (I always loved that statement). DKEG has been ripping up the roads this year. He put down his chainsaw in favor for his bike and it has really showed, just not in his mid-section. Dr. Frank has been working extra hard this year, he got in a solid training ride a week before the race and then wisely tapered for the next 7 days. He was sure to be our freshest rider out on the course. I was a bit off pace from last year, do largely to all the damn rain this spring....and summer. That brings up a whole new subject, the trails.

Last year, Big Bear received 8" of rain a week before the race. The trails were, needless to say, a nightmare. Until the Maximus earlier this year, I've never ridden in so much mud and slop in my entire life. It was heinous. This year was not looking much better. We monitored the radar more than Floridians do during hurricane season. Every day it was more of the same, severe storms would rip through the area, soaking the already saturated ground. 2009 was looking like a repeat of the previous year and that made for some grumpy people. When we got to the campgrounds our suspicions were confirmed and portions of the abandoned airstrip were either saturated or under an inch of water.

Nothing a beer can't fix. That was the general attitude as we unloaded. It was going to be a festive weekend regardless of trail conditions. A multitude of friends were camped all around us and everyone was ready to have a good time. On one side there was a large contingent from Michaux, behind us some folks from Frederick and to our other side was the Notter First Choice team with Liz, DCTony, Ernie, Jason, NY Steve and Eric as their "pit bitch". Our own pit consisted of several Outlaw teams, Fixed Not Broken, the Outlaw Ladies, David and I with the Juggernauts and the ExtraFunky/In-Law & a Flying Dog team of JayD, Alex, Mic, Brie & Lynn. Big Bear is usually a great time, with friends all around, this year was looking particularly festive. Our shanty town erected and a small pre-ride completed, we tapped the keg and began the pre-race hydration ritual. At some point I crawl into my tent and pass out for the night. As the captain, I was also nominated for the Le Mans start and opening lap. Tomorrow morning was going to hurt.

Frank was good enough to brew up some tasty espresso in the morning. That helped clear the cobwebs from my head. Noon came quickly and the Le Mans start is designed to thin the pack before the single track. I lined up near the front with Baler and held a nice pace off the gun. As we are running, another racer informs me that I dropped my gel flask a little way back. I give up a nice starting position as I fight my way back to the flask, as it's being trampled upon by numerous runners. I have my work cut out for me as I am now near the back of the pack. On the bike I catch back up to Baler and pick my way through a crowed field before we enter the trail. An extended road section provides me this opportunity, but, at what cost. I'm spinning like a hamster on meth and my heart rate is through the roof.

There are several re-routes that bypass some of last years nastier sections. While these are a welcome addition, sections of the the trail are wet and quite muddy. Several hundred sets of tires are sure to makes matters worse before the end of this day. The pine forest section, with its fast flowing lines, has been slowed by the soft ground, but, it is still one of the better bits of trail and I enjoy railing through the turns. After a screaming bit of single track, we hit the big technical downhill. I'm on the wheel of another rigid single speeder and we rocked our way down to the flowing stream bed. Down at the bottom of the valley we now have to work to regain all the elevation we just gave up.

The long gravel road climb is a great place to recover and prepare for the next bit of trail. After the second stream crossing we come upon another re-route that bisects a section of low lying, muddy trail from last year. The loamy fresh cut trail is a little slow, but, it's better than the alternative. Turning the cranks, passing riders, output intensity and line choice are only some of the thoughts running through my mind as I negotiate around the slimy course. I know I have to save something for the final climb, however, the trail ahead is a mystery as our pre-ride didn't include the second half of the course. Last year it was power sucking mud from the boulder field all the way to the top. What was this year going to be like?

Wet and slimy to be sure, but, not as bad as '08. The approach to the last climb was ridable and I made the most of my new Karma. The tire and I dug deep and we rolled most of the approach and some of the hill. Better than last year, not as good as 2007. Topped out, there was a little more easy climbing and then bombing through the final rock garden. A little more twisty stuff and then the fly bridge before I could call this lap kicked. As I rolled through the spiral, the Big Dog was on deck and ready to make his impression on Big Bear. The baton gets passed and I'm ready for a beer.

That was just lap 1. A blow by blow of each lap would take forever and I've probably lost most of you by now anyway. I will say, as Darius did in his account, that our team really shined when the night laps hit. We jumped several spots during the evening hours and I can only attribute that to all the night rides we do over the winter. Like the last two years, I had the pleasure of the dusk and dawn laps. They are without a doubt the most enjoyable times to be on the course. Dawn, in particular, energizes me with a new sense of purpose as the sun breaks free of its nocturnal bonds. My dawn lap was to be my last lap for this race. It was also to be the most enjoyable. The night was kind and did not coat the trails with a heavy layer of dew. This helped to expedite the drying process and made for great conditions on Sunday. Every rider coming off a lap that day commented how much fun they were having and how great the trails were. One more lap on those dry trails would have be nice. Maybe next year.

Our team did ok, again. Another 5th place out of 13 in our class and 23rd out of 150 overall I believe. Joe's Fixed Not Broken team did well, again and got 2nd place in the Rigid/Single class. Fortune smiled on them as the Bush Doctors decided not to send a man out for a 15th lap and they got The Kid out for a screaming fast final lap. The Lady Outlaws took third in Women's Sport and were the only team rolling single in that class . The MBM Crew had a strong showing. Brett's Devo Vet's team took 1st in the Men's Vet class, Camp and the Multiple Organism's rode away with third in the 5 Person C0-Ed class. Lot's of strong riding by everyone, as always, and never a dull moment. Big Bear is way more than a race and that's the reason I keep coming back for more.

Photo Credits go to:
Theresa Svoboda/
Uncle Buck
Donna (several times)
ExtraFunky (JayD)
& The Blue Eyed Devil

1 comment:

Dkeg said...

great write up Todd, a little late but great write up.