Melinda and I arrived at Haw Ridge just a little after noon on Friday hoping to score a big area for our crew that would be trickling in throughout the day. When we rolled in there were really only 2 other people set up so we pretty much had free rain on where we set up. As usual we took up the entire front corner with plenty of room for NTMBA mischievousness. The weather was perfect all weekend and we really needed it after a bad couple of years. Sunny skies and warm temps through out the day made for an excellent race weekend.
By Friday night most of the crew had made it in and set up. We built a good size fire and cranked up the tunes.
Melinda really went all out and created a Halloween themed spider cake for Andy's Birthday which tasted as good as it looked.
Saturday finally rolled around, race day, the day we've been waiting for a while now. I had a feeling a podium spot would not come easily this year since the nice weather would most likely draw out the sandbaggers and I was correct. Unfortunately there was no cannon shot to start the race because some jackwagon had stolen the cannon but John B assured us that a new one was being made and would be ready for 2011.
Usually there are a few racers who in the spirit of Halloween dress up for the race, this year one of those racers was my teammate Brad.
Yes he rocked the purple suit and make-up the entire race. Look for him in the video if you haven't seen it yet.
While I didn't really dress up this year I did borrow a tu-tu from Melinda for my first lap. I got several compliments from other racers out on the course. Next year I just might take the costume up a notch.
Our first lap in we were in 5th but thought we were 4th because we had the name wrong of some friends of ours who we were competing against. As I sat in the pits waiting for Brad to come through and hand off to me I watched my carrot go out on his lap and a few minutes later I began my chase. Just before I went into the pits I made a near fatal mistake of downing 2 handfuls of trail mix which haunted me for the first 4 miles. It was all I could do to keep from painting my Niner with dried pineapple but I managed and once it passed I gave myself a good cussing and kicked it in gear and began my hunt for my carrot. I few miles later I caught sight of him and began reeling him in slowly. As I approached he simply pulled over obviously unaware of his stalker that had just bumped him down a spot in the standings.
My second lap we had dropped back into 5th so once again I sat patiently in the pits and counted how many minutes my carrot had on me. When Brad rolled through I counted 6 minutes, I had a feeling this was gonna hurt but this time I stayed away from the trail mix. I turned myself inside out trying to catch my rider hoping it wouldn't be the Hill of Truth or later when we met. As the miles clicked by I felt really good, much smoother and faster than my first lap. After I passed the section where I had caught my carrot last time I got that sick feeling that if I was going to catch him it would be on the Hill. I prayed that he would walk it since I was running a 1x9 and would have no gas for riding that monster.
Sure enough as my luck would have it I caught him at the base of the Hill. I made no attempt to pass quickly as he might realize who I was and force me to waste precious energy riding the whole damn thing. I just followed at a safe distance and began making small talk about how rough this climb was. Mind games, I played it like I was really struggling and I think he took the bait. I finally passed him, rode as far as my legs would take me and dismounted for the final push to the top. Sure enough he dismounted too but I do alot of hiking and have always had strong legs when it comes to hike-a-bikes. I've made 2 or 3 passes walking up that very hill during previous races so I knew I had him. I actually caught another walker in front of me just as we reached the summit and was able to jump on my bike and shoot into the woods ahead of him which would slow my chaser down some if he decided to counter attack. He didn't and I moved us back into 4th again, success.
This year the same as last year we bounced around mid pack for most of the day pacing ourselves while I guess other teams are running on fumes once the night laps rolled around. As darkness grew the other teams tired and slowed but we maintained and kept our 4th spot. Eventually we moved into 3rd and made quite a bit of time on 4th allowing us to sit back and enjoy our last few laps. 1st and 2nd place were un-reachable so we decided to play it safe and ride smooth rather than risk a wreck or mechanical.
As I pulled into the pits on my last lap I saw Brad had cleaned up and was looking well, like Brad again and not the Joker. He told me we only had time for two more giving us 12 laps and securing 3rd place. I was happy and disappointed at the same time. The course was pretty rough, well stocked with roots and rocks and I had taken a beating on the hardtail all day. I really wanted to get out the full squish (Vana) and see how she felt in race mode. With 3rd place in the bag I was satisfied and decided it was time to celebrate. A late dinner was calling my name so I grabbed a brew jumped in our ridiculously small shower and joined the rest of the crew who were already in full on dance party mode at the campfire.
Too be continued.............