Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hilly Billy Race Report

Even with the setbacks that I had been experiencing this season, I have been determined to put my fitness to good use. With the NUE series or any races with singletrack out of the question, I decided to focus on the American Ultra CX series, Blueridge Ultra CX series as well as finishing up the King of Pisgah Series.

Since I raced the first race of the AUCX on the singlespeed, I figured that I should go ahead and race the remainder of that series on the singlespeed. I pulled the gears off of the Carve and turned it into the single that I enjoy riding so much. I have recently replaced my Quarq power meter with a Stages that I can easily swap from bike to bike. I have always liked racing by feel without having any numbers in front of me including time. For the Hilly Billy, I mounted up the power meter just so I could document some data from the race.

I had good company, so the drive up to Morgantown, WV passed by rather quickly. We stayed in a hotel the night before the race which was a nice change of pace. Being that most of my races are fairly long, they start early in the morning. Since the Hilly Billy was only 72 miles of pavement and gravel, it started at 10:00. This gave us ample time to get ready the morning of the race but standing around in the sun at the venue waiting for the start had me wishing for an earlier start.

After a five minute spin prior to the start, I decided that the gearing I was running may be too tough to push on the steep hills in the area. I was able to bum a larger cog off of another singlespeeder but was unable to make it work without adding some links to my chain. I decided to not risk a weak chain and put my 18t Endless back on.

As always, the pace was fast from the start. Once we found gravel, it was confirmed that I would have my work cut out with the gear that I was mashing. I found myself caught up in a rather large group, almost at a standstill, on a steep pitch in loose gravel. After some weaving while spitting rocks, I was able to work out of the mass of riders and onto some open road.

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs
I was feeling great until the 50 minute mark but once the muscles started tightening in the back, I knew I was in for a long ride. Just like many times before, the discomfort that I was experiencing was enough for me to know that my race was over. My spinning, tucking and drafting turned into just spinning as it hurt to much to tuck. I took the opportunity to stretch my back out on every downhill wishing my problems would all just go away. I started asking other riders if there was an easy bail out option and was unable to figure one out.

When I arrived at the aid stations, I took time to stretch off of the bike. I thought that this might help some but it did not. A car ride back to the start/finish at each aid station would have been ideal but I just couldn't get myself to ask.

I spent much of the afternoon going back and forth with a dozen or so other riders. I was determined to not walk any of the course (even though it may have helped me) and would pass them on the climbs. I don't know how they could climb any slower than I was as I found myself almost at a standstill over and over. I would then get caught on the flats being that I was just spinning my gear out and coasting. Eventually I think the heat along with flats took many of these riders out because I found myself passing people with no one passing me back.

I was relieved to see the final grassy climb which meant the finish was near. I was hoping on finishing somewhere in the 4:30 time frame but ended up with 5:00. The course seemed like it would be tough even if I were feeling good. The hills were not long but they were steep and many were loose. They also kept coming for the entire race. After racing on a few courses similar to this one, I can say without a doubt that I much prefer climbing for many miles at a time.

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs
The face kind of sums it up.. discouraged.
The quality of this event caught me off guard. It was fantastic! There were a ton of volunteers positioned at every turn on the course as well as at the aid stations and many of them were dressed up as Hillbillies. I hope to be back at this event next year and maybe I'll be able to get Vanessa to join me dressed as a Hillbilly.

Even though I have been working endlessly at trying to figure out my back issues and have put time in with several medical professionals and countless hours in the gym, it seems like the smart thing to do is take a break from racing. I still really want to finish out the King of Pisgah series with Monstercross and Double Dare but I'm not sure that's going to happen. Right now my focus is on getting to the bottom of this so I can heal up and come back strong next season.

I am currently in the process of trying to schedule an MRI. The scan may allow us to get a better look into what is going on and hopefully come up with some effective ways to treat it. The timing of all this is not the best as I leave on Sunday for a month of riding in CO. As of now, it's looking like I won't be scheduled for the MRI until I return. I am taking some bikepacking gear along with me and the flowers are popping right now. I can't wait to spend some quality time with V in a town we both have come to love. Crested Butte here we come!

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