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Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge

I decided to do the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge pretty much at the last minute. I figured a 50-60 mile endurance mountain bike race would be a good practice race to get the kinks out so I'd be ready for 24hrs of Great Glen and the Hampshire 100, both coming up in August. The only real negative was the 4+hr drive to  nowhere Maine (Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Carrabassett Valley).

Not a lot of intel on the course other than it would be between 50-60 miles with 6,000ft of climbing. Challenging they say! I drove up Saturday afternoon, checked in and setup a tent within sight of the start line. I chatted with a couple of NH folks at the pasta dinner and met up with aR teammate Geoff shortly after. He really wanted to go for a course preview ride, I did not. I should mention before driving nearly 4 1/2hrs to Sugarloaf I had to drive 3hrs to pick up my kids from camp. Needless to say I was tired and in no mood to ride. I opted for a quick mechanical check and setup of my bike and hoped to get to bed early.

Oh sure, I got to bed early. I was exhausted. It was quiet, dark, not hot, pretty much perfect sleeping conditions. The only problem was I wasn't sleeping. Not a wink. I just laid there looking at the inside of my tent. I wasn't stressed or nervous, I wasn't anything, especially not sleeping. This happens from time to time for me, almost always after I stay up past the point of when I should have gone to bed. So I just laid there, waiting for the sun to come up, wondering how the heck I was going to ride 7+hrs (and then drive home). It was a long, boring night.

I finally ended my misery at 5am and got up, got ready and had some breakfast (and coffee) at the Outdoor Center. Although tired, I actually felt ok and was looking forward to a good day of riding (not necessarily racing). I had a 100oz Camelback but would only fill it 1/2 full (with Nuun/water) at the start. I had various snacks in the Camelback and a couple of packages of Shot Bloks in my shorts.

I wisely opted for the Novice class (which started last at 7:15am) and headed off with about a dozen other Novice riders. I rode easy and relaxed and still lead the group right from the start. It was fairly easy riding and social for the first hour before I had dropped all other Novice riders. So, for the next 5+hrs I would ride alone. Occasionally I'd catch a Sport rider (the next class up which started 5 minutes before us). I was expecting more of a mix of trails though. Sometimes you need a break from the technical to semi-technical single track to give your body a break. Double track and dirt roads usually do the trick. They said it was about 30% single track but a lot of the trails (which I'm sure they called double track) were basically single track rails cut through cross country ski trails, or old logging roads or just wider openings in the forest. Single track means there's only one trail. Double track means there's more than one line to take. I'd say at least 60% was single track. Although I LOVE single track, it's not something you want to do for 4 or 5 or even 6hrs of riding. It can be exhausting, and it was.

Overall it was a good course. About 54 miles in the end. Yes, I'd call it challenging but I was able to ride nearly all of it (including some fairly significant climbs up the side of Sugarloaf Mountain). Probably only a handful of hike-a-bike sections, including a few stream crossings. Surprisingly there was a fair amount of mud out there. Kind of shocking actually since it's been so dry everywhere. I still have a hard time calling what I do racing. I probably don't ride much harder than an average daily ride, I just do it longer. I clearly don't take this sport seriously. I love mountain biking and I'd like to keep it that way. I don't want to worry about training or racing. I always ride to have fun. Every ride. Period.

For what it's worth, my 6hr 52min effort was good enough for the top spot in the Novice class. I can only race against the folks who show up so I'm happy with my time and effort. This race was nearly twice as long (time wise or mileage wise) as any ride I've done all year (all of which has been on a mountain bike),so no complaints.  Heck, considering I had zero sleep, it's a miracle I even finished!