The team unanimously nominated me as the lead man in the race taking the reins and running in the Le Mans start. I kinda wanted to lead us out normally leaving those duties to B-Rad but he was busy in Chattanooga laying waste to other runners on Raccoon Mountain. Two weeks leading up to the race I was pondering on my strategy on what to do. My plan of attack was to start out the run which I considered short, as fast as I could, place my bike as close to the start as allowed and ride by any runners who might have been faster than me.
As we lined up for the start I tried to get as close to the front as possible but ended up 3 rows back packed in with everyone like sardines. As soon as the race started I took off hoping to weave through traffic and get closer to the front. I got hung up behind a couple of slower guys before working my way around to the outside and moved up along side the front pack as fast as possible. I did fairly well with staying up front but several of the runners were faster than I had expected.
Yes I am completely off the ground, it's how I run.
Once I got to my bike it was a cluster of runners trying to pass and riders trying to get moving and not run over anyone. Once moving I jumped on some guy's rear wheel as we weaved through the swarm of people. Once free of traffic I stomped on the gas.
Mark kept telling me he's not a runner and would be walking but obviously that was not true.
One thing I forgot was the length of fireroad we had to ride before hitting the singletrack. I had over exerted myself during the run and paid for it on the fireroad accents. I got passed left and right. It was until we hit the singletrack that I was able to get my breathing under some what of control. Just before the race I had downed a chocolate gel which was trying to fight it's way back out.
I had to back off a bit while I got my stomach under control and once that happened I was able to get back on the gas and work my way around some of the slower riders. The longer we raced the better I felt, I hoped I was not pushing myself too hard as I didn't want to blow up before it was over but I couldn't allow myself to back down with three or four riders in front and behind me. I held my pace and hoped for the best. Once in the pits I checked my time which showed 51.47, I though surely I had brought us back in at least in the top 5, that wasn't the case.
Going into the race I wondered if racing the sport class was the right thing to do. Some believe that if you have been on the podium you should move up to the next class. I think that if you win you should definitely move up the following year if you return to that same race. My pondering on whether we were sandbagging being in the sport class was put to rest as soon as the first round of laps were posted. Even though we were running fast and consistent laps we were in 10th place.
As I stood there examining lap times something caught my eye in the beginner category. The top 5 or 6 teams were posting sub 50 minute laps, faster than at least half of the sport field. Not only were the top beginner class riders running faster laps but the field was 3 times as big. I went from wondering if we belonged in the expert class to wondering if we belonged in the beginner class. The Gone Riding races obviously draw alot better riders from a larger spectrum than the races I'm used to but I have no doubt that a large portion of the beginner class did not belong there. I really wished there had been a co-ed class but I felt fine with our placement and settled into the race and concentrated on having fun.
Finally I was able to call on the JET to race knowing the course was really better suited for the hardtail bikes but I went ahead with it especially since I had seen several other JET9s and even a RIP9 on the first lap. I worried about being a bit slower on the JET but it was not by much. My second lap I turned in at 55 minutes 35 seconds. Unfortunately the entire lap was plagued by a creaking headset which I think was loose. I actually haven't taken the time to check since my Fox F29 is due in at any time.
For lap three I went back to the AIR9 to get a better feel of lap times since my first lap on it included the running portion. My third lap I felt awesome, the AIR9 felt like a rocketship. When I stomped on the pedals it immediately responded. My 3rd lap while not any faster than the second was only 6 seconds slower.
I never really thought the JET would be faster but I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was. I plan to take it along with the AIR9 to the H8R race in Haw Ridge next month where it will be more at home with all the roots and rocks.
too be continued..............