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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vermont 50

When I signed up for this race back in May, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. It's incredibly popular (700 mountain bike slots filled in about 40 minutes) but I'm not entirely sure why. It's one of those races I just can't figure out (like Stonecat). Not quite a bucket list race but it was on my radar so fast forward to this past weekend.

VT50 is actually a unique race (at least I think so). They have a 50m mountain bike race and a 50m trail race on the same course, at the same time. To add to the excitement, they also throw in a 50k trail race which runs on the back half of the 50m course. Surprisingly, it seemed to work. Runners and bikers sharing the trail. Who knew?

A forecast of "cloudy, chance of rain late morning, then clearing later in the day" in Vermont apparently means heavy, misty fog to start, followed by rain, heavy at times, ending with more rain. At least it was a warm cold rain. If it wasn't for the non-stop hill climbing to keep me warm, I would have froze to death in some Vermont town that had more cows than people.
The best dirt roads are in Vermont
I'll be honest, I didn't take this race too serious. I had a lot of other races and events between when I signed up and when I had to actually race (it was nearly 5 months!). I kind of lost track (and focus) and it got lost in the weeds. My last bike race (Hampshire 100) was in mid August and since then I've ridden less than 90 miles total. Probably not the best way to head into the VT50. Since I have the excuse book out, I might as well throw in I did zero recon on the course. Didn't look at a course map, didn't have any idea where the aid stations were (or how many), didn't look at previous results, didn't look at previous race reports and didn't know the terrain (although I was confident the race was in Vermont). Yep, I was ready!

A 3am wake up, a little less than 2hrs driving and I was checking in at 5am for a 6:20am start (I think?). All I knew was I was in the last wave (novice, tandems, wheelchairs, Big Wheels and the rest of the less fortunate riders). I opted for a light to start, and I was glad I did. Surprisingly, not many did. With a dark start, overcast skies (aka rain) and dense woods, the light came in handy for the first hour of the race. I'd recommend a light for those considering this race in the future.
Another muddy climb

I don't remember a lot about the course. I have a terrible memory, I didn't have a GPS and I have a terrible memory. Things that I remember:

  • There was a LOT of climbing. Somebody said it was like doing hill repeats for 7+hrs. Pretty much sums it up.
  • Nearly 1/2 the course was on dirt roads. These are some of the nicest dirt roads I've ever ridden on. Some were so smooth, it was hard to tell if they were paved or dirt. 
  • Beautiful country, lots of time to take in the view since you spend so much time in your granny gear.
  • I may have seen 3 rocks on the course all day. Maybe. This course was not technical.
  • Most of the dirt roads were in the first half. Most of the single track was in the second half.
  • Single track sections were mostly smooth, loamy trails. However, with 500 riders starting before me, and a constant rain, these trails became incredibly slick and muddy. 
  • Aid stations seemed well stocked.
  • Volunteers were supportive and friendly.
  • The lead 50m runners passed me about 45 minutes in (and they started 5 minutes after me). I would leap frog the top 4-5 runners all the way to Gavin Hill aid station (about 20m), before they finally dropped me.
  • Passed a ton of Sport riders (who started 5 minutes before me). 
  • Although there were always riders and runners around me throughout the day, passing was never an issue. 
  • I never rode alone. 
  • The first aid station I stopped at was Gavin Hill (~20mi).
  • My quads showed signs of cramping after 3hrs. I slowed considerably to avoid cramping.
  • I bonked around 4hrs. I was dizzy, weak and shaking and had to pull over and rest for a few minutes. Had a Stinger bar and some ClifShots and continued on. Climbing.
  • I stopped at most of the remaining aid stations for PB&J and Coke.
  • Did a lousy job refueling. I was hungry all day.
  • Trail conditions got worse throughout the day.
  • Stayed on my bike all day. No falls.
  • A Camelback is unnecessary. The aid stations are so close a 20oz water bottle would have been fine.
  • My triceps are the sorest muscles on my body today.
  • My drive train was so muddy at times, I had to stop and remove handfuls of mud from my bike.
  • My Trek ex8 worked perfectly. Never missed a shift.
  • After 5hrs I was very cold.
  • Around the same time I was sort of hoping for a major mechanical so I could drop out. It was becoming not fun.
  • Sort of got my second wind after 6hrs and was feeling better (less worse). 
  • Finished fairly strong, had a good last 10 miles or so.
  • Definitely what I'd call a roadie course.
  • If I do it again I'd move up the Sport category just to start ahead of a couple hundred novice riders.
Putting on my best "happy" face after the race.
I can't say it was my favorite race, but part of that I'm sure was related to the crappy weather and part of it was related to me not being prepared. 8 months from now I may consider signing up again. At least I have some idea what to expect next time. I really need to figure out how to fuel up on these longer bike races.


middle.professor said...

Never done a 50 mile bike race or really any race for more than 3 hours. I imagine the rule should be eat early and often. 20 miles seems a long way in for the first aid station. By the way, any big wheels beat you?

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

I guess you have to train for something like that. I have a couple of friends who finished in under 6 hours. They are Mtn biking machines. Not to mention they ride really fast on the roads. You can kick their butts in a road race though. There reports all said "what is it with VT50 and rain, it seems to rain every year". Great job buddy. And NO you will never see me out there on a mtn bike. You've seen what happens to me on snowshoes, imagine if my center of gravity were any higher?