Sunday, April 22, 2012

Voodoo Fire Race Report


Voodoo Fire: My first mountain bike race since 2010. I’ve been racing so long that I rarely get nervous before a race, but I was certainly nervous for this one.  Would I be able to keep up? Would I get dropped right off the bat? How are my technical skills? Will I be able to ride at high intensity for 5+ hours? The only way I would know is to go out there and do it, so that’s what I did.

Voodoo Fire was held in Pueblo, CO with approximately 600 racers. The start was like a typical mountain bike race –  in waves, starting with the Pros then 2 minute intervals between age groups/categories. When they called us old guys (50+) to the line, the race announcer made a comment about us taking a nap during the race. Ouch!

With the intention of separating the field before the single track, the start begins with slightly uphill road for about a mile before turning onto  the actual race course that was easily 95% + single track. I was feeling absolutely great and so happy to be there. I hovered near the front never more than one or two bikes back. We were already catching back of the pack racers from younger age groups before we hit the single track. I was able to make the top 5 of our group when we hit the single track, feeling good and relaxed, which was pleasently surprising. The Single track turned into a very long train for at least half of the first lap. We were caught up behind the slower riders of the younger categories and in many places it was either very hard to pass or just not possible. It seemed there were some people getting stressed out about it and some using an incredible amount of effort just to move up one or two riders in the train. Even in areas where passing was possible the ground was soft and it took a big effort. I decided to relax enjoy the fact that I could save my energy for later in the race when things get ugly. When ever we hit a double track section we would pass as many people as possible then settle back into the train on the next section of single track.

After an hour or so things started thinning out as we weeded our way through the slower riders and I was going back and forth between third and fourth place. I believe I finished the first lap (22 miles) in 4th. At this point it was hard to tell because we lost ourselves in the crowd of all the other age group riders. Going into the second lap I came upon my good friend Kelly McGrew and passed him in a climbing section. He said he wasn’t having a very good day and as I passed him I believe I moved into third. The second lap was much more open and we could actually open it up. I noticed my bike wasn’t handling well and thought I had a flat back tire. Stopped, checked it, tire was fine. Continued, but as time went on the handling was getting worse. I felt like I was pulling a trailer going around turns. Maybe my wheel was on weird? Stopped took off my wheel and reseated it. During this time I lost a couple places but I don’t know how many. Continued on, caught and passed at least one old guy, but things were getting worse.  There was definitely something wrong with the bike! Stopped again, thought the wheel was loose. Shook it back and forth and my whole rear triangle shook with it. I could move it left and right like a door! The bottom bolt holding the rear triangle to the front had come almost all the way out! Five minutes later it would have been gone. It took a while to get it back together, as it was tough lining up the holes with the pressure of the rear suspension. In the mean time racers continued to pass by.

Once fixed, I jumped on my bike and started riding hard. I wasn’t stressed though. Again, I was just happy to be there. Finished the second lap, grabbed a new camelback, food and was off.  It wasn’t long before I came up on a guy in my age group. After I passed him and he realized we were in the same category (Our ages and category are written in magic marker on our calves) he decided to make a race of it. So we spent the next hour or so hammering each other. I was pushing hard trying to lose him and at the same time wondering if I was going to destroy myself instead. It was getting very hot and he just stuck to my wheel. Finally, I put in a huge effort to pass two racers and he didn’t go. There was a section of three switchbacks and I looked back and saw I had about 100 yards on the two guys I passed and he was still behind them. He looked shot. So I kept the pressure on and rode strong for the rest of the lap. Toward the end I was on the verge of cramping, but I just focused on pedaling strong but relaxed, especially up the steep climbs in the last three miles.

In the end I ended up 5th in the old guy category in 5 hours 44 min. My questions were answered and I am especially pleased that I had such a strong last lap. I have to say it feels so good racing mountain bikes again! It’s been a long slow journey over the last year but I think I’m back. Now we’ll see how the running side of things are going when I do the CollegiatePeaks 50 Mile run next week!

Check out this trailer to what looks to be a great documentary! - 1Hundred