Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PA Valleys MASS Festival Weekend and Stage Race

More mountain bike stage racing! Not quite as daunting of a task as the Transylvania Epic, but still some tough efforts lined up over a 3 day period. The farm as its called remains one of my favorite places to ride a bike. The trails are just what I like, twisty, full of 54 (somebody counted) log overs, and never boring. The format of the event includes a Night time trial, a 8 hour endurance race and a short track race over a Friday through Sunday block. I raced the solo class last year and had a pretty good day riding around the awesome singletrack at the farm. This year I elected to solicit my team for some help with this event. Craig Lebair stepped up and we formed a duo team to race in the team category.
First the night TT. The last time I partook in a night mountain bike ride I was 14. I had a sweet Trek headlamp my dad bought me with a lead acid battery that must have weighed 5 lbs. I remember a lot of things from riding while 14 but the intricacies of night riding were not amung the list. I strapped the much lighter and much brigher Magic Shine headlamp on to my helmet. Craig had an extra light on his bars and a headlamp.
The plan was for me to lead and call out any obstacles and turns in the technical 3.5 mile loop. While pre riding a couple laps we realized that we could really get some good speed up in many of the sections. The one somewhat scary part was the all too familiar (I rode it 9 times last year, each having a very high "pucker" factor) river trail. This trail bounces back and forth off a river bank. there is a 2 to 3 ft drop off the side to the water should you wander off the trail. To make matters more interesting its arguably one of the more technical obstacle ridden trails there. Fun
Craig and I had a 9:53pm start time, and we set the fastest time of 18:22 for the DUO class with our run. Our strategy of calling out trail furniture roadie style worked well and we were very in sync, despite the fact I was running gears and Craig was on a singlespeed. We only had one or two bobbles and the time held and we took the victory in Stage 1.
Stage 2 was the big show. 8 hours in duration, a contest to see who could do the most 7.5 mile laps over the course of the day. While the solos would be forced to grind it out all day, the teams would treat the laps more like little XC races and rip through the trails. The fist lap was especially hot, almost a minute faster than any other lap that day. After the lap I got into a nice routine. Refill bottles, shower off to cool myself from the 90 degree heat, eat something, and put my feet up for a few. I would start to warm back up with roughly 10 minutes of Craigs lap left. I may have said the same array of words to Craig all day only getting to talk to him as he was giving me a handoff push through the transition area. We had some pretty solid push action between laps I must say.
At about 6 hours it was pretty certain we were going to win baring any catastrophe. We shifted the focus to riding smooth and not taking huge risks. Unfortunately the course was just too much fun not to go fast on and my lap times started decreasing, hovering around the 43 minute range. It was also pretty obvious I was going to have to do an extra lap. (as long as one rider finishes their lap under 8 hours, the next rider can go out and start their lap.
To make matters worse we were winning the entire race. The plan was for me to drink beer on my last lap (before the girls got to it all)... but that all got thrown by the wayside. We had the duo class wrapped up, but we were also beating the two fastest 3 person teams, one of which contained my coach. The 3 man teams turned out some brutally fast laps, and Craig bled a little time to them (to his credit he was on his 5th lap, the 3 man riders where on their 3rd). When Craig came through I had maybe 3 to 4 minutes to make up. I knew what lap times everyone was averaging and decided to go for it. I set off after Kuhn and Topher with a fury. I was straight up murdering myself, doing my second fastest lap and was able to pull back all but maybe 50 seconds to Kuhn and his 2nd place team, and maybe 90 seconds to the leaders. This effort left me in a very dark place, so bad I turned down beer immediately after finishing. That's a bad sign. We recovered, ate some homemade dinner from the farm and hit the Captain Lawrence Keg. We ended up doing 11 laps in 8:20 ish taking the Duo victory
When I crossed the line I did my best Jersey Shore fist pump, practicing for the next MASS race in Sewell, NJ.
Greg and Jamie would go on to finish in the coveted lantern rouge spot due to Greg "Fueled by Beer" Camia shutting it down mid day. Jamie pressed on without him completing his first mtb race ever. The crashes among the two where high but both knew how to HTFU and keep pressing on. When I crash I lay on the ground and pout then blog about it until people call me a girl, so nice job guys.

Sunday was the Stage 3 short track. I woke up still in that somewhat dark place, despite this picture. 
The heat had done some pretty bad things to my stomach. I was fearing having to go fast. Luckily my stomach calmed down a bit and we weren't racing until 12. I downed 2 delicious bacon egg and cheeses from the nice folks cooking all weekend at the barn and waited my turn. To help pass the time we took part in the slow downhill race (last one down the hill wins) and the huffy toss... I lost miserably at both. Greg knocked me over in the slow race and my one glove Michael Jackson tribute strategy did not pay dividends versus the 50 lb bike.
Photo credit to Den S.
The short track followed the same relay format lasting roughly an hour, requiring Craig and I to switch off every lap. Everything started well, with me taking the holeshot, I quickly realized a jumpy Jeff Bahnson would be an issue as we surged around me right before the end of the first lap.
Photo credit to Den S.
Craig sat on his teammates wheel and Jeff and I ripped around for another lap. The laps were taking us roughly 3.5 to 4 minutes to complete. This was a really nasty trick to get us all to do intervals after a long ride the day before. After that Craig got a little separation from Kyle, Jeff's teammate, and I was afforded a little breathing room.

The best picture of the weekend.
We carried on and took the race. Craig got to do the last lap and finish up the weekend.
The amount of stuff handed out was awesome. There was a swag toss cash and pretty decent prizes for the podiums. All finishers got a sweet wooden metal (woodal?)
Thanks to Emily, Lauren and Natalie for helping Jamie, Greg, Craig, and I race all weekend.
Laurens Book of Faces pictures are here.

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