Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hampshire 100 Race Report

Vanessa and I drove up to New Hampshire to race in the Hampshire100 which was a new addition to the NUE Series this year. Niether of us had been to NH before so we were both excited to get the opportunity to take in new sights. The limited data available about the course made gear selection difficult. I chose to run the good all-around gearing of 32/19. After all, my polished 19t Endless Cog was looking too clean and wanted some action. I was under the assumption that the course would one of the easier NUE Series races that I have participated in. My assumption couldn't have been more wrong.

The race start was a little different than most NUE races. The start was staggered with the "open" racers off first followed by the masters, women, and singlespeed classes. This start seemed to work out just fine for the singlespeeders as the race opened with a ~20 section of very flat, fast road and rail trail. The singlespeed field seemed to be as stacked as one gets for a NUE race and I found myself dropped by 8-10 of them very quickly. I was able to work my way into several groups along the flat section of course and kept the pace just above comfortable.

For the first 30 miles or so, I found myself trading places with another singlespeeder who I was unfamiliar with. I introduced myself and found out that I was riding with AJ who should have been one of the front runners. After yo-yoing for a few hours, AJ decided that he had some place to be and took off. As it turns out, he hadn't been feeling all that great in the beginning of the race and ended up working his way all the way back to third.

For the rest of the initial 65 mile loop, I found myself riding pretty much alone. I eventually caught and passed another singlespeeder who stopped at one of the aid stations that I declined. I rode hard to put in a gap so that I could take a leak without getting caught. I was successful in doing so but was caught and passed not long after. I never saw this guy again and as it turns out, he took 7th by less than 30 seconds.

Coming into the last ten miles of the first loop I was feeling quite spent. I wasn't bonking but was just wore out. The course was turning out to be much more challenging than I had mentally prepared for. I was ready for rocks, roots and rolling terrain. There were plenty of rocks and roots but the difficult part for me was dealing with the soft singletrack and steep pitches. Even the doubletrack was littered with rocks which made it ride more like singletrack. I do not like walking anything while racing but for this race, I found myself off the bike often. There were many climbs that were just too steep, soft, or loose to climb on the singlespeed. As I was passed and easily dropped by another singlespeed, I was mentally done. I tried to think of an excuse to use for a DNF at the 65 mile mark however I couldn't come up with one.

While rolling through the pits, I noticed that the singlespeed that had passed me in the last bit of singletrack only had 30 seconds on me. He disappeared in the wooded connector to the road and once I made it to the road, he was out of sight. I was impressed that he could put that kind of time on me so quickly. I spent the rest of the race working hard wondering why I wasn't catching this guy. It turns out that I had passed him in the pits as he stopped to refuel.

Since I was still gassed and on another long flat section of road, I was just spinning a comfortable pace. It didn't take long until a group of three including Dan Kotwicki and Vicki Barclay caught up with me. I was going to let them go as I didn't think that I had it in me to spin the RPMs that would be required to latch on. I decided to give it a go and they ended up being just what I needed. It was almost relaxing hanging on to this group and we were cruising much faster than I was as a solo. Once we hit the punchy doubletrack climbs, I had to part ways with the group in order to keep my momentum. It wasn't long until I was solo once again.

Dan worked his way back up to me and pulled for a long time. At times it was all I could do to keep his wheel but I knew I might fall apart if left alone. We were joined by a third who was interested in taking a wheel but would not take a pull. This did not sit all that well with Dan so he increased the pace until  we both fell off. I was able to keep sight of the guy in front of me and used him as motivation to keep riding hard. I crossed the finish line in 9:09 and 8th singlespeed. I had hoped for better placing coming into this race but was unaware of the talent that I found myself racing against.

Spent a little time on course with Vicki today.
The course ended up being the toughest NUE 100 course that I have seen so far. This race taught me to not underestimate any race and be mentally prepared for anything. The conditions encountered on this course was a chain's worse nightmare. There was lots of mud, hub deep water/mud holes, loose wet soil and sand. Thanks to Squirt Lubes, my chain was running smooth and quiet the entire race without a re-lube.

The race was very well organized with excellent food before/after the race, plenty of aid stations, lots of great volunteers, accurate course marking and just a great vibe overall.

Thanks to Vanessa for seamless bottle hand-ups, driving us most of the way home, and finding joy in sleeping in the back of a Ford Focus at service plazas on the way to and from the race.

Yeah.. we just slept in the back of a hatchback!

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