Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dakine Summer Race Series

I love racing up at Great Glen, be it mountain bike racing, cross racing, running races, nordic ski racing, or even riding up that stupid Auto Road- it seems like racing is a big part of what you do at Great Glen.

The Dakine Summer Series is like many of their various series races- a time trial format where you can roll up to the line at pretty much any time and go out and do your run. While the start time isn't quite as much of an issue as it is in the winter- when track conditions can make a major difference in times, it can still make a difference. Heat, rain, etc can all have an impact on how the course is riding.

This year my youngest is "turning her pedals in anger" for the first time on the mini course, which is about a mile loop with some single track. A 12" wheel can sometimes struggle on the single track- but she has fun and I joke that she and I are team single speed. My oldest also enjoys racing and hits the "short" course. Meaning my pre-race warm up is a lap on the mini and then a lap on the short before I head out for my run.

I've been running a single speed the past few years and planned to do the same this year, despite the fact that there isn't a SS class. It actually is a pretty good course for a SS, but gearing is key. My standard gearing on my 29er is a 32x20, and for this course a 32x18 or 33x18 is really the gear you want of you will find yourself spun out on a regular occasion. With that said I ran a 32x20 as I'm too cheap to buy an 18t that will fit on my EBB hub (I have an 18 for my other SS- but I like the weight and snappiness of the Mamasita a bit more than my El Mariachi)

The course is a mix of packed gravel roads and several short sections of single track and one longer section of single track to make up a total course length of just shy of five miles. It's a fun course and uses portions of the 24HOGG course- including Whiplash, which this year the summer series runs in the same direction as it will on August 14th and 15th, so it's a great chance to work on your race line.

Week one I ran the SS, posted a 21:36. When week two rolled around I thought I'd give the Big Mama a run and see if gears helped out. Now the downside to this is the extra 10 lbs the bike ways, and the suspension- but gave it a go- turned myself inside out and posted a 20:34. Upon reflecting on the two I figured I could push a bit harder on the SS and match my week two time on week three. However two things conspired against me. First was a strong thunderstorm that rolled through right before the race- drenching all the roots out in the woods. Second was a lack of thinking on my part as I boosted the air pressure in my tires to 40+psi (usually run between 25-30psi)

Chris counted me down and I was off. The bike was rolling fast and I was pleased with the speed I carried on the flats with my legs working like high RPM pistons- just trying to keep myself from bouncing off the bike. I was feeling pretty good about the time I was going to post. Then I hit the first single track. Next thing I know I'm bouncing and slipping off of everything- literally ending up in the woods at times and having several dabs on a section I've never had any issue with. Then on the short pitch out of the single track I lost traction and just about ensured I'd never have to worry about fathering a child again. All the bobbles and near miss threw me for a bit of a loop and my first thought was just that I was going so bloody fast that that was why I was having such issues, but I quickly put it out of my mind as the bike once again felt fast going up another hard pack climb. Up next Whiplash.

Withing 20 yards of entering Whiplash my delusion that my issue on the roots and single track had to do with my "blistering" speed quickly eroded. Once again I was bouncing and slipping and quite honestly going nowhere fast. Then it dawned on my- wayyyyyy to much air (keep in mind I run Panaracer Rampages on a fully rigid bike- so my tires are my suspension and these tires have always been awesome). After slipping off one more root and riding into a tree I considered stopping to let out a bit of air- but realized I was better off just going for a short jog with my bike and take my losses and then enjoy the fast roll on the gravel. Of course the "short jog" in my mind ended up being much longer in reality (still short by most peoples standards- but for me running any farther than from my driveway to the bathroom after a long drive is starting to feel excessive.

I eventually made it out to the other side and started hammering on the pedals, the remaining climb went very well- and I was trying to figure out how to install a system like that have on Hummers where you can change the air pressure on the fly- as that would be slick.

I only had one more section of single track that gave me any issue- and by that point it was just funny. I managed to get through but did some nice "root slides" that gave me the impression that hitting the ground might be a very real possibility.

I wrapped up my race and posted a time around 22:20, so not even close to getting near my geared time (nor my first SS time). However it was very fun and reminded me of the importance of tire pressure!

Looking forward to next weeks run- and who knows maybe I'll throw a drive train on the Mamasita and see if we can get the best of both worlds- light and stiff- and taller gears than a 32x20. Then again I am pretty lazy...

Ride safe,


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