Rural Retreat is beautiful country as I found in my first trip there back in June for The Hillbilly Hare Scramble. I am looking forward to returning for the Coyote Run event, with my new gear and outlook on racing. There is a Saturday practice from 1-3 pm as well, which makes the 4 hour drive all the more worth it. I arrive Friday evening, the weather is cool, perfect, no need for AC.
My trainer recommended running only one lap on Saturday, to learn the course and then help conserve energy for the race. This is counter-intuitive to everything I've believed regarding practice, which is get as much as you can, whenever you can, but the physical nature of off-road racing means my body will not have enough time to recover if I put it through its paces the day before. I reluctantly agree and pull off after riding one lap, watching Juan and other P riders pass by as I head to the pits, when what I really want to do is chase them down and see what they've got.
The course is typical VCHSS hare scrambles fare: single track with big hill climbs, a long run through a creek, mud and ruts, off camber downhills, tight sections dodging saplings, rocks and even a few jumps to keep us on our toes. I point out to a buddy that the start has us immediately heading into the slippery creek and mention that some idiot is going to go flying in there, crash and take a bunch of people out. Someday I will learn to keep my mouth shut.
Start time comes and goes Sunday morning. There is a delay as a rider from the early morning race is backboarded. The medics have him strapped to the back of an ATV and run him right through the starting grid as it is the fastest way out. The 150 or so of us move out of the way and try not to stare too long at the grim reminder of what happens when it all goes wrong (rider was ok, thankfully).
An hour late the race begins. The 15 guys in my class start heading for the narrow creek like a pack of Energizer bunnies on meth. I am in fifth as we hit the water. Just as we start leaving the creek, the first place guy falls, taking out two other riders. I start making a move around him as he is lifting his bike, which he promptly shoves into me. I fall over, taking a nasty shot to my left arm which momentarily dislocates my thumb and leaves my hand completely numb. Thumb re-located, I expend a lot of energy and time picking the bike up out of the water and get my gloves soaking wet. I hate wet gloves. Well this is a wonderful start.
|Left hand numb, angrier than a wet hen....|
Now in last place I make my way out of the creek and up a huge, dusty hill, looking like a Shake N Bake chicken. I'm pissed and making stupid mistakes, losing my head again. A nasty root jars the handlebars from my hands and snaps me out of my temper tantrum. I finally relax and begin slicing through the stragglers. Rhythm found, things start coming together and the first lap ends in 4th place. Just starting to feel my left hand again.
Things progress, momentum builds and I believe I must be gaining on the top three. Sure enough there is Juan in front of me. I make a pass and put my head down, now in third. Bottleneck. Three riders stuck on a tight singletrack section, for no apparent reason. I wait for about three seconds and lose my cool. There is a medium sized log blocking a line to my right. No problem, I can jump that. But it really helps if you know what's on the other side. More logs. Completely unprepared for that, I fall over. The bottleneck clears. And so does Juan. I can feel the steam rising again, I'm about to blow a head gasket. A little bit of patience saves a lot of time, some day I will grow up and learn that. Apparently not today. 2nd lap ends, still 4th.
|Yes Virginia, Spanish pigs can fly.|
Finally I am able to channel the anger into useful energy and hit the zone. I pass Juan for the last time and wonder if I can catch the leaders. It feels like I am really moving and a check of the lap times later reveals I cut nearly two minutes off between my second and third lap. I am happy, but it begs the question, why am I not that fast all the time? I never catch the leaders, who finish just over two minutes ahead, about the amount of time I spent fucking around in the creek at the start and trying to jump over logs I shouldn't have. Live and learn, I hope.
|Last lap, 3rd would have to do for today.|