Monday, July 27, 2009
Snowshoe Race #2 (West Virginia)
After a great practice weekend, I figured this weekend's race would be almost a breeze, even at the pro/elite level. The only areas that I wasn't allowed to ride prior to race weekend were the two lower road gaps and the "wild zone," a rock garden that ended with a rather magnificent rock drop to steep chute.
On Saturday I took a few practice runs and felt fine on those areas. I knew I'd be a bit slower over the large gap than the rest of the pro field, but figured I could live with that. The rock garden in the lower half of the course was tricky, but not unnavigable. Saturday afternoon, however, everything changed. The rain began in the late afternoon and continued until Sunday morning. Half of our group left after Saturday since the rain showed no signs of letting up and had already soaked through their tent back at the campsite. The rest of us rode out the storm and woke on Sunday morning to a damp, but sunny day.
Immediately the difference in the course was obvious. Areas that were simple before became all-new challenges and the rock garden was especially tough to navigate, since keeping your line was such a battle. After a couple practice runs, though, I felt comfortable and adjusted to the conditions.
The race run was a bit different. The course had been torn up so badly by the race traffic that the lower half was almost unrecognizable. There was a stream running down the trail just below the "wild zone" and the "hairball" rock garden was more slippery than ever. My run was going fine until just before "hairball" when my rear tire slid out. I paused, ran up the muddy run-in a few feet, and tried to restart the section, which began with a jump off of the first rock. With no time to compose myself and neither pedals clicked in, I didn't last long before going over the bars. Again I tried to relax and restart, but doing so in the middle of a rock garden is extremely tough. A few more falls and one very long breath later, I was over "Roberta's Rock" and almost through "Lower Hairball" when my tires slid out again on the wet rock and ejected me once more.
After so many spills, I figured that my chances of posting a good time were lost, so I decided to take the rest of the course easy and simply go as fast or slow as I felt comfortable. By this time I was near the bottom of the course and through the most challenging sections, so I decided to stay off the brakes and enjoy the speed. There was only one more obstacle in my way, a high-speed, low-elevation, rock drop that lands on the downside of a series of tree roots. It's something that I took slow last race, but had mastered during last week's practice. I felt no fear of the jump, so I decided to hit it hard and fast - big mistake! As soon as my bike left the ground, I could feel that the rear wheel had bounced too hard, and was going to throw me off the front of the bike. I landed face-first on the ground, cutting up the entire left side of my body. Luckily, I had no broken bones and my full-face helmet did its job wonderfully. The race run, however, was a complete bust and I'll be off the bike for at least two weeks.
I suppose even wrecks can serve as valuable learning experiences and this one wont soon be forgotten. It was a bummer, but could have been much worse, so I feel lucky coming out of it relatively uninjured. Even with that outcome, it's still nothing to ruin the weekend. Hell, to top it off, we snapped the best group photo I've ever seen on the drive back to Richmond.