Sorry this is running a little late. Time has been flying. I am not really sure where to start with this race as there is just so many little things about this race that made it a blast for me. It was 2007 the last time that the DINO series made a stop in Ferdinand to check out the trails. I can understand the hesitation to use this stop in the series. It seems that the turn out is always low. There seems to be two big reasons why the turn out is not better. The first reason is that the trail seems to have a reputation of being hilly. I guess that is not all false as there is a lot of climbing with about 1500 foot of elevation gain for a 10.5 mile loop. That may sound bad, but think about all the changes that have been made over the years to make the trail more enjoyable and how much worse it would seem for everyone. I don’t think too many people believe me when I say that right now the trails are the easiest that they have ever been. Yes, it is still not what I would call easy.
Along with the climbing the other complaint is how far it is to drive for a lot of racers. I suppose I can understand that as it is also a reason that I don’t attend a lot of the other Dino races. Some may think that they can get all the races in with out making the trip down there. My though is why do the series when I have to drive so far for almost every race. With French Lick no longer in the picture and I am sure Ferdinand will not be back next year, that means that the closest race I can hit is 2 hours away and the rest of them are even farther away. The driving and schedule conflicts have been the reason that I have not had too many recent years that I have done enough races to actually finish the series.
The week leading up to the race I wanted to get out there and refresh my mtb legs. With the rains, it had been a few weeks since I made it out there. It had been dry and should have been a great night to ride, but mother nature wanted to keep it interesting. We made it out the the fire tower and it looked like a storm was blowing in. The wind was picking up and we could see the dark clouds in the distance. Two of us decided to keep going and one turned back. The next section of trail it looked like it might get crazy soon, but nothing happened yet. It was not until we were in the fire lane 7 section heading to the back lakes before it decided to let loose. The wind was crazy, lightning and thunder was everywhere. The rain started to pour down on us. At this point all we could do was keep going. That was some of the most intense riding that I have done in a very long time. We were very happy to make it back to the car with the weather clearing up. I joked about heading out for some more, but I was soaked.
This ride was scary and awesome in so many ways. The bad thing about this ride was that even after cleaning my stuff up, it seemed like my shifting was not working as smooth as it should be. I had a lot going on and was not able to get the cable replaced before the race. This had be really wondering what bike to race. I knew that the gears would be a much easier route than riding the SS, but how mad would be if my gears would mess up in the middle of the race. The other side of me was thinking about how good I tend to ride when I am on the SS. So, what to do?? I was still undecided the morning of the race. I loaded both bikes up and figured I would make my mind up sometime before I had to hit the start line.
Well for some reason I convinced myself that the SS was the smart bike to ride. I figured what the heck. I probably won’t win since my legs were not that great for the last few weeks (not like I have normally had a chance). There was some rain leading up to the race so there could be some wet spots. Add that to the shifting issues and it started to sound like the correct idea. I also kind of wanted to do it just because it seemed like everyone complained about how hilly the trail is. What better way to prove that wrong than ride a rigid SS.
I know know what it is about this bike, but I have such a great time riding it no matter how tough the ride is. Most of the time I seem to find some super human strength to ride stuff that I normally would not be able to do. Too late to turn back now. I went out for a pre-ride and thought we might be over doing it. We took the road up toward the camp ground the hard way. Then we went down the gravel road to jump on to the half loop. From there we did the last section of the trail. I also went around the start area and checked out the first climb from the field. I know that section has always been and issue and was not sure what condition it was currently in. I typically don’t ride that because it is so bad.
Apparently they had put down some rock for a running race that was supposed to be earlier in the year. It was still not worked in to the ground very well and was soft. I rode a short section and made the decision to walk that section as I didn’t feel it was worth burning all those matches that early in the race. I finished getting ready and before I knew it the racers were being called to the line.
I jumped into the pack, but when we moved up to the start line I was not too worried about being on the front line. I took it fairly easy in the loop that went around the field, but was not in last when we hit the trail. I crossed the creek and started up the rock climb. I was just going to go a little ways until it started to get soft. Well the traction was going well and before I knew it, I was much farther up the climb than I expected. At that point I figured I made it that far I might as well keep going. So, I was off to a bad start climbing the hill that I didn’t want to climb. I then made my way up the fire lane climb moving in front of a few more racers. The section that I knew would be wet was much worse than I expected, but some how I made it all the way with out working too hard.
I was hurting, but still doing better than expected. I kept pushing my way around the loop. I had a few spots that were tough on me since I was behind a slower geared rider spinning in granny. One of the hardest hills on Southridge almost got me, but somehow I made it to the top and then passed the rider holding me up. I kept making good time for several miles. First time that I was really starting to hurt was just before making it to the road on the fire tower climb. The 50+ riders caught and passed me here. I was hurting so I decided to walk the last little section up to the fire tower. Not sure if that was a good idea or not, but I had to deal with it. I did have a rider catch and pass me while I walked, but by the time we hit the bottom of the hill I was back on his wheel. I passed him before entering the new section so I would not be held up on the new climb.
I rode pretty well for the rest of the lap and did’t really loose places and actually gained a couple. As I went around the start finish area the women’s leader caught me. I let her go around because I was really feeling the first lap and figured she would climb a lot better than me. This lap I was smart and walked the real soft section of the rock climb in to the woods. I felt like I was going slower from here, but was still climbing. My lower back was really starting to hurt and the legs were tired. I tried to drink and eat to regain some strength. I ended up catching a rider at the top of Foxey Hollow. He let me go by and was thankful that I showed him the fast line down the hills. After the creek crossing I made it up the next hill and didn’t see him again. I was hurting, but knew the end was near and kept pushing.
I finished solid and can not complain about my ride at all. I ended up in 6th place for the 40-49 class. I was about 8 min. behind placing and I am just fine with that. I will always wonder if I could have done better with the geared bike or would it have been worse? I will never know. The only thing I will know is that the geared bike could have been a lot less painful with some more gears to pick from. Less pain does not mean faster.
I have to thank DINO for giving Ferdinand another try and hope they come back soon. I also have to thank Honey Stinger and Tailwind Nutrition for giving me the energy to ride like I did. My ESI extra chunky grips for making my rigid SS feel like it had a shock on the front. The Stans NoTubes wheels mated with an Endless Kickass cog has made this the best rolling bike that I have ever been on. I also need to thank Basket Case Brewing for the after race drinks that were much needed to help heal the pain. It was great hanging out with teammates and friends after the race. That was the most fun that I have had like that for a very long time.