Friday, June 11, 2010

Mad Dash 8 Hour Race

On Saturday, May 29 I rode/raced just short of 8 hours at Riverside State Park at the 24 Hour Race. For some inexplicable reason, a week later on Sunday, June 6 I decided to ride the Mad Dash 8 Hour Race, solo category. The term "a glutton for punishment" comes to mind. Also, WTF? comes to mind. I can and should blame combination mountain biker and lawyer DD, but I have to admit he didn't have a gun to my head, just the repeated and subtle suggestion that it would help me get ready for riding the Leadville 100.

In the intervening week between the 24 Hour Race and the Mad Dash, due to weather and work, the only riding I did was the Team Two Wheel Shop Ride. Admittedly that was an easy pace, but I felt fine and did not have any particular sensation in my legs that made me think that pushing pedals was a bad idea. Instead, I waited until the 15 minutes before the Mad Dash to have those feelings.

The Mad Dash race has 4 hour and 8 hour categories, as well as solo and team categories. The race is held in Farragut State Park, which is about halfway between Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho. It is part of "Adventure Week" which includes a bunch of adventure races and mixed sport events. I usually abide by the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything" rule, but I will mention a couple of things. The course and ride information on-line could be a lot better. I was looking for distance and elevation information, along with a map or profile. There was a map, but it didn't show the direction or much else information. Also, when you are speaking to a group of bikers heading off for 4-8 hours of riding it is not that pleasant to say something along the lines of "if you get off the course, it is your own damn fault and if you get killed crossing the highway it is your own damn fault and you all signed the death waiver, right?" So, anyway.

The race started at 8 am and was scheduled to end at 4 pm, or whenever you finished your last lap after 4 pm. The race started in the boat launch area so that we had a paved uphill climb to spread people out a bit before we hit the trails. The uphill on the road, which lasted about 3-4 minutes, went well for me. After that we hit trails larger than single track but not a road, and went uphill for another few minutes before leveling off at the elevation of the main road. This also went well for me. It was just after that, about 10 minutes into the ride that I realized that I was tired and my legs were a bit dead feeling. I knew that Combo Rider/Lawyer DD was just behind me so I waited, thinking that I could draft him a bit, learn the course and get into a reasonable pace for the lap.

Good idea, no execution from the legs.

Instead, I drafted DD for 90 seconds and then watched him ride away, the last time I would see him until we were standing at the finish line. At the time I thought to myself, "well, you haven't recovered completely from last Saturday, so take it easy and you will warm up and warm to the task at hand."

Good idea, no execution from the legs.

My first lap of the 7.5 mile course wasn't tragically slow, but it was a bit slow and a bit cautious. I had never ridden in Farragut State Park and despite the excellent course information and terrain knowledge provided by veteran park rider and nearby resident Jeanna Hofmeister, I wanted to get the feel of the place before I pushed too hard. This turned out to be a reasonable idea since one harmless and flat corner led straight to a ramp across a ditch, another lead to a very steep and large, round rock strewn descent, one entry to single track led to a sudden switchback and, as with any mountain bike course, there were a few surprises around the course.

I will take this brief intermission to say that Farragut State Park and Bayview are incredibly pretty areas. The hills rise straight up out of the water and the views are much more dramatic than most of the rest of Coeur d'Alene or Pend O'Reille lakes. The mountain biking is also good and less traveled than Riverside State Park. The trails are a bit less hard-packed, there are more long sections of single-track and there are fewer rock-garden sections. All in all, I was very happy to have the chance to check out the park and terrain. I sense a family camping trip this summer.

Anyway, back to the race. At the end of the second lap, which I'm reasonably sure was the fastest of the day up to this point, I got a flat. I got my flat in a deeply wooded part of the course that had a bunch of small tree roots and some rocks. It was the most technical part of the course, but the thing that interested me is that I am fairly sure our racing uncovered a buried hydroponic line. Didn't take the time to figure out if that was it for sure, or where it went, but every lap I looked for it and was intrigued at what it meant.

But enough about the course. What about my flat? Well, it was a all-air-gone-in-sixty-seconds flat. Or more like 5 seconds actually. And, metaphorically speaking, it was also the moment of my racing day deflating. Oh, I kept riding for another 5 1/2 hours, but no more racing. I was just tired. I had the legs and/or energy to keep pedaling, just not fast. My gut bothered me from the time I woke up and it didn't really get better until the next day, so it wasn't just nutrition being wrong since it started well before the race. So combining tired legs and a iffy gut, it wasn't a great day.

I was still moving along around noon when the rain started. It sprinkled for a while and then it started to rain in a serious fashion. Thankfully the temperature was not too low, but it did make the course quite tricky. When I am "racing" I don't mind charging through puddles and what not - the point is to go fast, right? But I was already miserably slow, so it seemed pointless to just get that much muddier and wetter to save two minutes on incredibly slow laps anyway. And, the mud at Farragut Park is specially designed to be the slickest damn mud I have ever encountered. My tire selection and pressure didn't help, but others I talked to agreed that the course just got harder and harder to ride because of the mud.

So, as I approached the start/finish area at 3 pm, having ridden 8 laps (59 miles +/-) in 7 hours (8.5 mph avg overall), I crossed the line and told the timer that I was done for the day. Interestingly, as I stood there talking about 5' from the finish line, it stopped raining. Don't worry, though, it wasn't enough to get me to start up again. I chatted with a couple of people and figured that DD would finishing a lap up on me soon, so I was going to cheer him on to his last lap, but instead he decided to call it a day also. I think it helped that he knew he was a lap ahead of me.

I didn't stay around for the awards after the race and instead headed home. That was my mistake, however, as I was surprised to learn later that I had placed 3rd in my age division. Funny, I thought there only two of us who started. No, I actually don't know how many started, but I strongly suspect it was three and if it was more than three, the only reason I got third is that I rode another lap or two in the rain while all of the sensible people got off the course and headed home. DD was nice enough to get my medal and mail it to me, so I am sitting here gazing at it and thinking that it is the least well-deserved prize since Floyd Landis stopped racing.

To sum up - Farragut State Park - Cool place to ride; Adventure Week Organization - Still needs improvement of logistics and attitude; My own race assessment - Too soon after my last 8 hour effort and not trained to do that; Third place medal - Woo Hoo!
Rider Three

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