Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rally in the Valley of the Treasure

Woo friggin' hoo.  TVR time again.  This was going to be year three for me and I was pretty stoked.  I was a week off the Hampshire 100 and was looking forward to a mere 17 miles of the most technical terrain in the area.

And the weather.  I know it's been a rough year for lots of folks with not enough water, but it's been a dream come true for this mountain biker.  Last year the whole race was postponed a month and a half due to Irene.  This year, with no hurricanes looming on the horizon, we were clear for take off. 

I took a couple of days off after the H 100, but had a solid 14 mile ride through Uxbridge Wednesday night with the gang and then did a hard 41 mile road ride Thursday night.  Two more days off and ready for the race.

The pre-reg list grew quickly at the end of the week leading into the race.  I think my Cat, Vet II Sport, was up to 15 by closing.  Including Nathan Elder.  Another chance to try to edge him out.

Brett Russ and his team of dedicated Bums put a LOT of time and effort into getting this race off the ground every year.  Brett works tirelessly.  Trails are cleared, bridges are constructed, intersections are ribboned and trees are arrowed.  On top on the trail work there are logistics to work out with the scout reservation, shirts to order, sponsors to line up, volunteers to coordinate and registrations to handle. Thanks Brett!  And even more, thanks to Kelly and Jake.  It must be hell living with you as the race draws nigh.

Chandler Directing Traffic
Bodybuilder Directing Traffic
The course is on the Treasure Valley Scout Reservation with proceeds from the race going to the same.  The full course is not open outside of race day, so I always get pretty stoked for some local riding at different venue.   Plus the course is really varied.  There's grueling climbs, super gnarly technical, grueling climbs, super gnarly technical, grueling climbs and super gnarly technical.

I arrived at the race venue with my son, Harry, around 8 am to help out in whatever capacity I might be needed before the race.  My wife, Cori, was off doing the swim leg of an Olympic distance triathlon that had been canceled last year due to Irene.

Harry race-ready!
 After assisting with some set up for a bit, I got Harry together for the 10:00 start of youth race.  The race was a two mile lap and whoever made it around in under 25 minutes was able to head back out again for a second lap.  After Brett provided some instruction to the future of the sport, they were off.  The kids race follows the beginning of the regular TVR course.  Harry should have experienced some nice single track and a pair of pretty serious stream crossings before climbing up to North Field and then cutting out the lung busting climb up to the Pebble.

No, that doesn't mean winner.

That would have him following more sweet singletrack that would eventually lead him down along the pond and back to the start/finish area.  Hmmm?  Sweet singletrack?  No lung busting climbs?  I think I know which race I'm signing up for next year!

Harry coming up the hill.

Harry came through looking happy and strong, but just over the 25 minute limit.  He took third place in the one lappers.  Awesome job Harry Paton!

Harry Paton (3rd) and Jack Beaupre (1st) on the podium!
Max Beaupre takes 1st in the two lap race! Someone give that kid a sandwich.
So while Harry was doing his race, I was getting on with my race preparations.  I suited up in my best Bums kit, popped the bladder out of the cooler and into the CamelBak and did some minor pre-riding, much of which consisted of running around trying to get a glimpse of the boy.

As I was riding around, it seemed that my rear tire was a little low.  It was pretty close to race start, so I had to make a decision - put a little air in the tire or swap out the tube.  I chose the former.  But as we are to find out, I made the wrong call.  This is not surprising.  I am often wrong.  You would know this if were were married to me.  Not that I'm proposing.  Someone was already dumb enough to say yes.

The beneficent Beckie Beaupre had graciously agreed to be in charge of Harry while I did my race. That was super and Harry was stoked because he was able to hang out with Max and Jack Beaupre.  Thanks (again) to Beckie and her family!

 So it's 10:45 and we're taking in the racers' meeting.  Nothing surprising here.  Follow the arrows, listen to the volunteers, turn around if you see a "W", hold onto your hat if you see an "X".  Next thing we knew, we were queued up and waiting to go.

Once the elites and single speeders were off the experts took off.  I'm not sure who exactly was in the first group of experts, but there were a lot of them.  Maybe too many.

Expert Race Start
Once these guys disentangled themselves from one another and were able to get going, things ran pretty smoothly.  Category by category I drew closer to the starting line.  As I looked around at the competition, I did a double take to a guy in the back line of my field.  Holy moly.  I'm used to all sorts of folks at a race, but I think this is the first time I've ever seen someone in a t-shirt and Chuck Taylors in a Sport race.  As it turns out, these particular Chuck Ts were not SPD compatible.  Straight platforms.  Not even toe cages.  I talked to him following the race and he was a pretty cool dude.  More on that later.

Next thing I knew, we were off and racing.  The course starts through a short path away from the lake and across the entrance road to Treasure Valley.  I was, in typical fashion, not out front of the pack.  Probably somewhere in the middle, but closer to the rear.  As we hit the first couple of climbs by the park restrooms and up until we made the left onto the singletrack, I was gaining a few spots.  I was ramping up speed and cadence slowly and by the time we hit the double stream crossing, I was feeling really good.  The streams were running, but were not bad to cross this year.  I made them without even getting my feet wet.

After that it's a climb up to North Field, where I managed to take two more places.  That was boosting my confidence and my head was in a pretty good place.  I soak in some words of encouragement from the race volunteers stationed there -- Russ Stearns, Mike LaPlante and Pete Dunn -- as I pass through the field.  Those guys are okay.

Out of North Field there is a pretty long schlep up and up and up to Sampson's Pebble.  I was still picking people off, but by this time wasn't 100% sure if they were my Vet II group or the laggards of the group in front of me.  Everyone was super cool and just looked happy to be racing.

At Sampson's Pebble the Sport group hangs a left and heads down to the water.  I say down to the water, but the track is so technical that it does not feel like down at all.  As I'm headed down I saw at least three folks flatted on the side of the trail.  Those rocks were just eating up tires and spitting them out.  I managed to negotiate my way through somehow on the rear wheel of another racer who is making it, but barely.

As we empty out onto a short stretch of double track, I make my move and am by him as well, but as these things go, he is hanging on to my wheel as we head right back into some more techy single track.  Great.  Now I can feel like a complete jerk when I crash in front of him and screw him up after having just passed him.  But that's not what happens.  I ride clean and well and he fades into the distance behind me.  As we get to the bottom at the water, we take a left on a double track.  I thank a couple of volunteer emergency personnel standing there waiting to carry my carcass away should my carcass need carrying and manage a quick look back over my left shoulder.  I'm alone.

I drop it into a bigger gear and hammer to the left hand turn that takes me back up to Sampson's Pebble.  I say up to Sampson's Pebble but I mean straight up.  How can that last piece of trail brought me this low without me having noticed it?  The climb is sandy, steep and never-ending.  But I'm having a good race and I'm making progress.  A pass by a couple of racers, but I'm obviously in mixed category company now as some of these riders are riderettes.  As I get back up to the Pebble, I see the Novice group that had started after us was now making their right at the Pebble.  They don't have to do the descent to the water and climb the hill of suck.   So now there are some racers from the Novice class in front of me as we head into another pretty technical section.

What I find with the Novice class is is that they are some of the classiest racers on the course.  They are there to do the best they can, but most of them carry the mountain bike spirit with them.  Not only do they pull over and let me pass when they can, but they seem to be saying things like "Have a great race" and "Looking strong."  I think we could all learn something from these folks and I'm trying to reciprocate the best I can.  I am, after all, wearing the Bums jersey and feel I'm somehow an ambassador of the club.

At some point I realize I've caught another Sport rider and that we are passing Novices together.  Pretty quickly I realize that it's none other than Nathan Elder.  I've been chasing this guy all season and losing to him by one or two places.  In the last couple of races I've done I've watched him pass me as we head into the home stretch and just edge me out.  I'm hoping maybe today will be the day that maybe I edge him out.  We exchange some niceties and keep on pedaling.

At some point I get by him when he gets caught up on a short steep passing a young racer and I manage to get by on a different line.  I realize after I pass that the young racer was Brett Russ's son, Jake, who is racing Novice for the first time today. He was looking super good out there.

Now I'm in front of Nathan Elder.  This has got to be good.  Nathan's strong and I'm in front of him. Today is the day!  I'm just going to keep on pushing while I soak it in.

A short time later I begin to realize that my rear tire feels a little too squishy.  No!!!!!  I ride a little while longer, trying to work out how to deal with this.  The tire feels softer. 

Eventually I decide that my best bet is probably to try to handle it now and hope that it holds through the rest if the race.  If I don't do it now, I'm undoubtedly going to pinch flat sometime very soon.  I pull over and pull out the only CO2 cartridge I have.  It's only 12 grams.  A 29er tube usually takes a little more than 16 grams, but my tire doesn't need to be fully inflated.  As I hit it with the CO2 I am passed by at least six riders.  Probably closer to 10.  Including, of course, Nathan Elder.  Many of those who passed me though may have been some of the Novice group I'd recently passed.  I just don't know. If they were nice they would have yelled out their age and category as they passed by.  Bastards.

I'm back up and riding well.  I'm passing people, but they are likely a mix of people I'd just passed and Novices I had not yet passed.  I am impossibly confused as to where I stand in relation to my category, but know that all I can do is keep riding as well as I can and hope for the best.

After a little while I hear some yelling ahead and come up to a spot on the trail where there are about eight bikers completely stopped.  I can't  figure it out. Nathan is one them.  I learn that at a bridge crossing ahead someone has stirred up a hive of bees and people are getting stung.  Somehow we have the understanding that some folks may have been stung a lot of times.  Double digits.  No one knows how to proceed.  A guy that has come up behind me decides he's going to go ahead and risk it.and I follow behind him.  I've passed Nathan again, but this doesn't seem right.  As we approach the bee bridge we see a riderless bike abandoned on the trail just after the bridge and several folks bushwhacking around to the right.

The guy in front of me doesn't bother bushwhacking and heads straight over the bridge.  No screams.  No cursing.  I follow him over the bridge.  Both of us made it without getting stung.  A little more single track before we pop out at North Field again.  I let the guys know about the bees, but they are already keenly aware and working on it.

I pop back in the single track and start swooping my way back to the start/finish area hoping to have a strong second lap and regain position.  As I'm heading down my rear tire goes completely flat.  Oh no!  There's nothing for it.  No CO2 left.  I pull the wheel off, yank the tube out, get another in and start working my handheld pump.  It's a process, but I get it aired up and am back on my way.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of places I lost though. I do know that that was the last time I saw Nathan Elder during this race.  2013.

My race is run, but I'm going to keep going and enjoy the ride.  I have a moment of elation as I clean the power line crossing.  It's a 40 yard section of large, uneven, super-challenging rocks.  I'm happy to have made it.

I come back through the start/finish area and head out for my second lap.  I feel good and it's pretty uneventful.  After climbing out of North Field and up to the Pebble I am feeling thankful that the organizers decided to cut out the descent to the water and the climb back up for the Sport group on lap two.  I hit the singletrack out of the pebble and ease into a nice rhythm.  I'm still riding well and still gaining back places, but know that my two tire issues have taken me out of contention.

When I arrive at the bee bridge there is a re-route and Pete Dunn is standing there making sure everyone goes the right way.  I almost make the re-route while Pete heckles me that Matt Chandler made it.  Of course Matt Chandler made it.  Of course I dabbed once I hear that.  Just hearing the words Matt Chandler is enough to make a Sport racer dab.

I make the power line rock crossing a second time.  Probably because Pete wasn't there to tell me Matt cleaned that too.  Then I just sit back and enjoy the flowy single track that wends its way toward the finish line. I edged one guy out sprinting into the finish line, but as it turns he wasn't in my class. I still felt good when it was all over.  Just a little disappointed with my mechanical issues.

The results show I took eighth place.  Two spots and less than three minutes behind Elder.  There were 19 folks in the Sport Vet II, but two were DNFs.  All in all a good day of racing.

As I was wandering around after the race, I came across the guy I'd mentioned in the Chuck Taylors.  Turns out this was his first race.  He was from up in the Keene area and was used to doing about 15 mile rides up there, but he was astounded by the technical terrain here in Treasure Valley.  Astounded by it, but not ready to hang up his racing career over it.  He said he managed to finish in just over three hours, about twice as long as he was used to doing his 15 milers back home.  He loved the challenge and was looking forward to more races.  This guy epitomized the spirit of the sport.

I went for a quick swim with Harry after the race and was happy to wash the dust and grime off.  Great lake and the water was like bathwater.

Harry and I grabbed some grub at the barbecue being dished up by Cub Scout Pack 306 after the race.  I had a cheeseburger and Harry had the pulled pork sandwich.  Great grub and a complete meal for around $5.

John Beaupre enjoys a sandwich made of the hearts of his defeated competition.

Here are the results of other riders I know:

Karen Potter.  1/2. Female Elite.
Paul Simoes.  3/11.  Male Elite.
Chris Beriau.  2/3.  Female Vet.
Jon Modig. 3/6.  Male Junior Expert.
Matt Jalbert.  5/12.  Male Vet I Expert.
Matt Chandler (flatted).  9/12.  Male Vet I Expert.
John Beaupre. 1/13. Male Master Expert.
Nathan Elder.  6/19.  Male Vet II Sport.
Brian Spring. Wrong turn.  Male Vet II Sport.
Bill Lawless.  5/12.  Male Master Sport.
Mike Tuttle.  Wrong turn.  Male Master Sport.
Kes Roberts.  1/1.  Open Touring Division. 






Next up: Millstone/Kingdom Trails Road Trip!

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