Thursday, November 27, 2008


I got the call midweek. Josh (Inland Racing) was looking to fill-out a team for the 6-hour mtb race at Carolina North. With the NC cyclocross series four hours away in Hendersonville and Linus: Original Gangster out of town, I figured I couldn't pass up this opportunity.

Okay, here's the situation: 6 hours of 8-mile loops at Carolina North. Our 3-man team consisted of Josh, me, and C-Hill icon, Derek N., a one-time bike shop employee, part time trailbuilder, and sometime golfer. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Three Philosophers. Our team was named after the beer (which Derek brought, but which the trail landowners, UNC prevented us from drinking (go to hell Carolina!)). The beer was probably named after three philosophers, but I don't know who they are and am too lazy to google right now.

Josh blazed off to a fast start, taking the hole-shot down the fire roads. We couldn't see much until he returned to the start/finish zone. Our strategy was to each do two laps, then switch to single laps, if there was time left. This strategy, was designed to give us time to warm up, settle into our laps, and relax after riding. Given the cold temperatures, I think it was a sound strategy. After the first lap, Josh was in about 4th place overall and he calmly rolled into his second lap. Derek was up next. He claimed not to have ridden much in the past year or so, but he turned in two fast lap times. He definitely used the home-court advantage, but I also think his version of "haven't been riding much" still means that he's fast.

My first lap: 4:00 rolled around so I finally got to racing. I quickly burned past a few people who seemed puzzled. Of course they were, they had been riding for 3 hours while I had just been bumming around anxiously waiting to ride for 3 hours. So I passed you and you in a demotivational way, I apologize. If my caviler freshness just made you scoff and motivated you to go faster, I applaud you.

My second lap: the sun finally went down. Riding in the twilight has a motivational element. Psychologically, I always feel like I need to try and ride faster to get home before it's too dark to see. Also, according to the previews, twilight is when the sexy teen vampires come out. Watch out. I turned on our borrowed Light and Motion Seca. Let me first say that these lights are bright. Let me next say that for such an expensive light (retail price ~$600), their mounting system sucks. It's a plastic strap with a few holes in it like watch you'd get out of those plastic egg dispensers in the entryway of supermarkets. Mounting one of these on a fully-rigid bike didn't help and whenever I hit a pretty big bump (which was frequently on these trails), the light would rotate up or down, throwing $600 worth of light straight at my front wheel or off into the cosmos. And between blinding centipedes and misdirecting planes landing at the nearby airport, I rolled on through the darkness. The weird thing about nightriding in the winter is that feeling that your head is totally disconected from your body and you exist in this world that is about two meters wide and 4 meters long. It feels exactly like bonking. I realized this about 2/3 of the way through my second lap and since I wasn't sure if I actually was bonking, I pretended I was and just tried to keep turning the pedals over and hoping to get back quickly.

So what have I learned about endurance racing:
* Teams are cool. Solo riders looked miserable.
* Solo riders are cool. Plus they get to brag about being hardcore later.
* Hang out with people who do a lot of endurance racing: they have chairs and tents and bring all the best food and stuff.
* If you can't hang out with people who do a lot of endurance racing, at least hang out with people who do outdoor presentations, like Josh, who does promotional stuff for his chiropractic clinic.
* Do endurance racing in the summer. It's cold in the winter.
* Get your lighting set up right.
* Endurance racing brings out a wide range of people. I recognized a bunch of people, ranging from local mtb xc racers, to cx regulars, to shop guys to personalities, to Duke-affiliated folks, to dudes I just see around on the trails.

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