It’s another race weekend and once again I find myself participating in a well organized Adventure Enabler event! The weather was MUCH better when compared to 2018 Early Mountain Vineyards cold needle infested ice rain that we had a couple weeks ago. The morning had a slight chill with temperatures just under 40°F, but by 9:00 am you could feel the sun warming the air and you just knew it was going to be a good spring day.
I’ve never been at Pocahontas State Park before, so for these races I was going in blind (no pre-rides on purpose) to work on my ability to react to unknown trails. The only way I know how to correlate this idea is to sight reading music when I was growing up. Often while playing drums/piano/marimba our music teacher would give us challenges to just sight read music and play. My sister was great at this, I always sucked. I assume this is a good skill to have just in case any future races surprise me with an unexpected path.
When I said I was going in blind, I mean it! The race website did include a route, however, there was no elevation information to indicate if there were going to be any major climbs. I had to hope that the course markings were going to be sufficient and my body will adapt as needed. Since I placed high for the 5k Early Mountain Vineyards race, I lined myself towards the front of the pack for the 5mi run. Once we started two teenagers took off at an amazing pace, shortly followed by four old guys (myself included). I started to pull away from one of the guys during the first mile, when I could see up ahead the first aid station off on the right of the trail. I didn’t need anything so I kept my head down and stayed left away from the station just in case anyone behind me needed it. That was my one major mistake. That aid station was also the turning point to dive into the single track section of the trail!
So I missed the turn and instantly all the distance that I gained (10ft) was now lost and I was now behind a runner. I changed my mindset and decided to use my new opponent as a pacer. Both of us have been successfully dropped by the two teenagers and the other two older runners, and the chatter group behind us made it easy to determine we were not in jeopardy of being passed. Once we exited the single track we found ourselves back on the dirt utility path and I decided to make my move. I passed my pacer and started my sights on the next runner who was had dropped a little. It took me the entire last mile to catch up, and with an epic sprint finish I finally pass him crossing the finish line 3 seconds ahead giving me 1st AG (and 4th overall).
- Overall: Placed 4th out of 46 (top 9%).
- Gender: Placed 4th out of 17 (top 24%).
- Male 40-49: Placed 1st out of 71
- Training Peaks Run Data
Strava Run Activity
I finished my run and quickly started taking in a few calories by eating my Honey Stinger waffle and rehydrate by sipping on my Skratch Mix and water bottles. Other mountain biker racers started to arrive as well, making the parking lot a little crowded with the two groups (runners and riders) now combined in one area. To get ready for the MTB race I changed into my Wattie Ink October Awareness kit… for a few reasons:
- It’s a damn good looking kit
- I though the pink camo in the trails would be funny (I’m hiding, no I’m not!)
- Making a statement for joining FXCK Cancer Triathlon Team while waiting for their kit to arrive.
I was feeling really good before the race start, even though I sprinted the that 1/4 mile of my run. I registered for the one loop (beginner) course because I wanted to see if I could push myself the entire time in preparation for XTERRA Charlottesville, so I put myself in the front row of the Green Bib racers. From the beginning of the air-horn it was a great sprint! I found myself in the lead of all the racers and speeding down the dirt utility path when suddenly I couldn’t turn my peddles. I DROPED MY CHAIN!!! It was bad. Really bad. The chain was completely off my crank while going 28mph downhill and it was wedged between the rear cog and my bike frame making it impossible to fix while still on the bike. A fellow rider on my left just screamed “Sorry man, it’s OFF” as we both knew this officially means I have little to no chance in finishing first. But FIRST was not my goal, my goal was to push myself the entire time to get myself ready for XTERRA. I coasted to the bottom of the hill and dismounted my bike. Tried to stay relax and smooth (slow is smooth, smooth is fast) and put my chain back on and re-started my race, but now in last place.
From this point forward, I had the best ride EVER! Pocahontas State Park is amazing with it’s the perfect blend of: fast trails, sufficient amount of roots to make the ride challenging (without it being impossible), nice large bolder rock garden, plenty of streams to cross to get wet, and good hills that require some energy to climb. It was NEVER boring! There was always something different in your face so you couldn’t relax, but nothing where you had to stop and collect yourself after a monster effort. I quickly started picking off other racers one by one, passing them as politely as possible by letting them know I was behind them and wanted to pass, but was happy to wait until they found a good spot (so no pressure and not putting ourselves in danger navigating a single track). I pushed myself hard. My lungs BURNED! I was passing people all the way to the end, even on the “Start Park” climb from the Swift Creek Lake docks (short 1/4 mile segment that is 30% climb which is considered a CAT4 hill) and found myself crossing the finish line… in 2nd place overall of the beginning group!
- Overall: Placed 2nd out of 25 (top 8%).
- Gender: Placed 2nd out of 18 (top 11%).
- Male 40-49: Placed 1st out of 52
- Training Peaks Bike Data