I needed to get a good long ride in, though, so I decided to head down to Georgia and do the six-hour race at the Heritage Park trails near Athens. I did this race last year and had a pretty good time, and though this year the promoter had moved it up a month on the schedule the weather still looked to be pretty nice. When my alarm went off at 5:00 am on Saturday I completely forgot why I had set it and came pretty close to just rolling over and going back to sleep. Clearly, it is too early in the year to really expect that racing mindset to kick in. But I managed to shovel myself and all my stuff into the car, and made it to the venue about thirty seconds before registration closed.
I had only just received my Kish back via FedEx ground from SSAZ the afternoon before. So I would be racing singlespeed in the women's open category against riders on gears. According to Rich there should be no pre-race discussion of gear choice, like ever, although for some reason it is okay to go on and on about your tire choice for hours. Apparently singlespeed racing is all about suffering because you are too stubborn to ask questions.
The night before I had picked up a new 20 t Endless Cog from my local cog-pusher Shanna. So I spent most of the time before the race began dealing with changing my cog. Because I am a weakling, 34x20 on a 29er is a pretty tall gear for me on the trail. Folks who'd raced there before (YES Rich, I asked) seemed to think this ratio was a good choice for that trail. But because I am, as I said, a weakling, and also not too experienced with singlespeed endurance racing, I was doubtful. It did seem right for these trails but how it would feel after a few hours was kind of an open question.
Chatting with my old FM teammate Eric at the chilly start. Photos by Mark D.
I still managed to get a fairly good start into the woods and after the traffic of the first half lap found myself riding with Norma for a while. When a stick jammed up in my front wheel I lost her and would not ever catch up to her again. Because I hadn't really paid much attention to who was racing solo or team, I wasn't positive where my place was in my category but thought I was probably sitting in second or third.
The frozen mud of the first lap turned into the not-at-all frozen mud of the second and third lap. The trail was getting shitty out there, and remembering all the derailleur problems I'd had here last year I was happy to be on a singlespeed. Ah. It was a pretty good trail for a singlespeed, with little hills that all level off before you get too spent, and twists and turns through the trees in the flat parts.
Near the end of the fifth lap Cara passed me on a hill and I didn't even try to stay with her. By this time I was starting to feel pretty fatigued, and my forearms were killing me from all the time I was spending "rowing" the handlebar. I definitely need more arm muscle if I use a singlespeed in this kind of race more often.
Wooo! Cara, Norma, and me. Thanks for a good race ladies!
As I finished my fifth lap I still had just enough time to finish a sixth, but my arms were really feeling spent so I decided to call it a day. I expected the woman who was just behind me to go out for a sixth, but either she never went out for that lap, or she didn't make the time cut-off for it. Which means I ended up in third place!
Thanks to the race promoters for another well-run event. This was a really fun race. Just like it did last year, this event got me psyched for the coming season. It was great to challenge myself by doing it on a singlespeed. I had thought I might enter the singlespeed category, but my friends convinced me to enter the women's open category instead. I am pretty glad I did! I might have gone faster on gears, but I think doing laps on these sorts of xc trails was actually way more fun on a singlespeed. Maybe I will go this route again soon...