Friday, September 17, 2010

*Chickasaw Trace Classic Race Report


Friday when I decided to do this ride, I didn't really consider the weather. I figured "meh. whatever." Well the weather decided "we'll show him", and so, in Columbia, TN, it rained quite literally all day. I was driving in it, and even that wasn't particularly pleasant.
I had intended to pre-ride the course on Saturday (hopefully with Big Mac), but the rain said "nuh-uh" and so I didn't. Sunday I rolled in to Chickasaw Trace Park and parked in a big grassy field about 3 ft from a nice little bit of singletrack (no, not part of the race course). I rode up and got signed up (Beginner Men, age 30-39). I couldn't see when I signed up who all I'd be getting to utterly dominate, but there were lots of people milling about, so I figured there would be a few. :)

Big Mac warned me about a downhill that led into the field where we parked. He said it was nasty and slick, and everyone should probably walk it. Based on the condition of his knee, I surmised that this was experience speaking, and I should consider that as well. Big Mac also told me "good tire choice." I told him I made the decision late the night before. No wait those are my only tires for that bike. He also said I should run low pressure in my tires, which I decided to do as well. By that I mean I totally forgot to put air in anything (including the frame shock). Even so, it was probably my most comfortable ride on the FS bike yet (I've only ridden it maybe 300 miles so far).

I warmed up for probably 15-20 minutes on a paved road (which I later found out was in fact part of the course). Not much of a warmup, just enough to get the blood moving and ride some 100yd wheelies to psych out the competition. About 10 minutes before the race, we grouped up, and I discovered that there were a total of 5 in my category. Yay! Just *finishing* means I get no less than fifth! Two groups go before us, two minutes apart, and then it's our turn.

A horn. We ride. The start was long and a little downhill in grass, with a gravel turn, and then back up the hill on a paved road. That was almost the first mile (0.89mi). Two guys are ahead of me, one guy right behind, a fifth that I can't hear. He's what I'll call a "bad habit" (that's what we dropped him like). We stay like this until the 40 foot drop (in about 20 ft horizontal) down the wreck-y entrance to trail. The 2 leaders get probably 100yds on me in the first singletrack through a field, and just before we enter the woods, 4th says "excuse me kind sir, but I wondered would you mind terribly if I ease past you and ride in third position for a while until we cross the finish line 8 miles away." I dissented, and dropped the hammer \thusly. This had the fortunate side effect of pulling the first 4 back together. 1-2 are moving along, and I'm keeping pace with them for the most part. Then they sort of disappear. A mile later, I see them. And that was pretty much the last time until the podium.

So we ride in the woods for a while, and the whole time I was "mudroplaning" (kinda like hydroplaning in your car, but in mud). Made the trail probably twice as hard, at least.

Comparing race times to last years, even the lower placed people were above 10mph, so I'm thinking on a dry day, this trail cooks. I had one unexpected dismount of my bicycle, which I initially thought (and might be quoted in newspapers as saying) was one of my most graceful falls ever, but some bruises that have only recently made themselves known indicate either someone hit me in the left thigh with a softball bat, or I did in fact fall on *something* then. I tried to roll up onto a 6" rock ledge while going slightly uphill, and my bike decided we should stop for a second, and pitched me over the front side. Fortunately it didn't hurt, and I got up and rode off. I guess it was adrenalin that kept it from hurting (EPO doesn't do that as far as I know). Past that, some of the steep hills were so slick I had to dismount, and some of the slick hills were so steep I had to dismount. I was off my bike a total of 4 times through the ride, as far as I can recall (except once when I picked up a hammer so I could drop it again later in the race). There was once where I went off a 1' drop, and when I came back up over my seat, the front of my shorts got hooked around the back of the seat... I wish I had been watching that guy, cause I'm sure it was hilarious. But since I WAS that guy, I had to figure out a way to right that wrong. I very unnaturally (while riding) dropped back down over my rear wheel and unhooked. Turned out to be uneventful.

The first 4 miles or so was just back and forth along a river. After mile 4 or 5, however, instead of traversing horizontally (my preferred method of traversing), we began going straight up hills, crossing the gully at the top, then going straight down the other side of the gully. One can actually see this very clearly in the elevation profile, and the vertical play actually started at about mile 3.5. So that was pretty brutal...

The trail is a great trail. They maintain in sections, so some person gets maybe a one mile section, another gets the next. Could be that they build it that way too, because some people's sections were definitely much more difficult than others (Trail of Tears, specifically). Total was about 8.5miles (and maybe my GPS cut out for 100 yards or so). I took 1h 1m 50s to do it, so yeah, you guessed it, that's about 8.5mph (ok official result says 8.733mph). Given the slick-as-snot conditions and a completely new trail to me, I'll take it.

With the amount of forested area they have in this park, the amount of trail there is pretty amazing. You can see it on the google map I'll attach below. Just about all the tree'd area is covered in trail (much like Whirlpool, but without all the cut-throughs). The group used race timers in the form of ankle bracelets from Kramer Race Services to time the event. Reminded me of my days under possible for our upcoming events. They also wrote my age on my massive left calf (I think they had to use the Sharpie Magnum) so that all the young people I passed could eat my "30"year old dust. I also got a smiley face in my zero which was cool. It'd have been nice as well have gotten the girl to draw something that indicated to all the people I blew by what my name was with "you just got served" under it, so they'd remember next time. :) By the way, where it wasn't muddy, it was either a water puddle, or rocky. And plenty of rocks were plenty tall enough to catch a pedal (and were freshly scarred to prove it). Sporttracks tells me that the ride was 50% flat, with the rest being divided equally between uphill and downhill. It's tough to dispute hard numbers.

Once the top 2 in my cat dropped me, and pretty quickly some wrecks by Mr. Number 4 gave me some space, I was alone. I rode about 6 miles fully alone in the woods, only seeing other people on trails I was about to suffer on, or trails I'd just suffered on. Thanks to MH I have quite a few pictures of my second race in my life, and some great ones, too. (link below)
By the end of the ride, the mud had started tacking up a little. It stopped being so slippery, and just caught tires and kicked up into your nostrils.

I was third in my category. Fourth hadn't raced in 13 years, and 5th, hadn't missed a meal in 13 years. Brad (Fourth) informed me that according to the results, the winner in our category, had he done that same turn in a second lap, would have placed third in the Sport category. We needed the sandbags on the course, not in the race... Either way, it was a great time, and very nice to have a shower so close. Temps were perfect for a race, and thankfully the rain held off (I think for everyone's race).

I've realized that while accurate, this race report has become less funny and more long. Probably best to keep me from racing just to prevent these long reports...

-Jason M.
Oxford, MS

Thanks Jason! Some stickers will be on their way shortly!

Want some free stickers? Send in a bicycle related story along with your name & address with pic if possible! It doesn't matter what type of cycling you do, as long as it's about cycling.

Have a great weekend!