I am a little late in getting this post out, but better late than never. As I posted previously, I decided last minute to enter another race before winter sets in here in Minnesota and I break out the cross country skis. I had competed in the St. Croix Falls Woolly Mountain Bike Marathon Race in the spring and wanted to see if I had improved against that field. The Red Wing Classic was my last chance to do so and I’m really not ready for summer to be over anyways.
For those that don’t know what the Mountain Bike Marathon is, let me explain… It’s a new race that was started this year in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series that is a timed lap race. It’s also been called a 3.5 hour race. Basic rule is, you get as many laps in as you can. You are not allowed to start another lap after 3.5 hours, but your last lap must be completed within 4 hours to count.
I have always been interested in completing a 12 hour and even a 24 hour race and I thought these races would be a good starter. In the spring Woolly race, I finished 28 out of 39. I pretty much ran out of gas about 2.5 hours into the race. I felt decent from a cardio respect, but just didn’t have the leg power to get up the climbs later in the race.
I drove down to Red Wing, the weekend before the race to check out the trail system. I had never rode Red Wing before and I was sure glad that I checked it out ahead of time. All I can say, is that I’m pretty happy that the Marathon race did not race up the Stairway to Heaven. The trails themselves are a good trail system with a mix of everything.
There I was on race morning. I was hoping there was a good turn out for the event. There ended up being 20 guys racing, which was about half the field of the Woolly Marathon event. I’d like the think it was the 20 guys that were really into this type event and were doing it because they were competitive at it.
We took off from the start line fairly quick for a race that would last 3.5 plus hours. I took off from the start line with the lead out pack and settled in toward the back of this aggressive group as we approached the single track. The pace was feeling a little quicker than maybe I wanted to go, but I wanted to hang as much as possible. By the time we made it around the field, I had dropped off the back end of this lead out pack and could see that the leaders were definitely jumping out and separating themselves.
The start of a race for me is a love hate thing. I love the aggressiveness and chess match that happens as you approach the first section of single track, but people can get a little impatient. When we hit the single track, we had caught some of lap traffic from one of the other category races. This caused quite a bit of congestion. I struggled to keep my bike on 2 wheels as was trying to avoid ramming the person in front of me and the guy behind me side swiping my rear wheel 5 or 6 times. We managed to get around some of the lap traffic and spread out eventually, but it was pretty intense though the whoopty do section.
I raced fairly well my first lap and made it up the climbs pretty good. Momentum is key on quite a few of the climbs in Red Wing. The problem was that I had another 3 plus hours of racing after the first lap. I held in fairly strong the first 3 to 4 laps, but was still dropping 30 seconds a lap, and then a whole minute between lap 3 and 4. By the time I finished lap 4, I was starting to fatigue pretty bad.
Lap 5, I dropped another 1.5 minutes off my lap 4 pace. I was gunning to get lap 7 completed before the 3.5 hour mark so that I had a chance to finish 8 laps. At this point, I was starting to push the limit of this being possible. I had to finish the rest of my laps back under a 30 minute pace in order to get the 8 laps in at this point.
I took off pretty hard on lap 6 and got pretty loose coming out of the last whoopty and crashed. No problem, I quickly jumped back on the bike and in the first pedal stroke sucked my derailer into my spokes. It turned out that I had bent my derailer hanger. I quickly straightened it out, pushed my bike about 15 feet up the rest of the incline and continued to ride on.
So there I was, knowing that I had really pushed the border line of getting lap 7 in before the 3.5 hour mark. About 1.5 miles later, I was passed by 1 of the leaders that was lapping me and I figured I would try to hang to keep my pace and motivation going. Apparently, I don’t have the same bike handling skills in the tight switchbacks, because I washed out my front tire in a corner and hit the dirt hard.
This one hurt. I banged my right quad pretty hard on a rock or tree root and it actually took a bit, 5 to 10 seconds, to pull myself up off the dirt and get back on the bike. This is where I discovered another bent derailed hanger. I straightened out again, with disbelief that it didn’t break this time and rode on. I could feel the throbbing in my right quad pretty bad. Don’t get me wrong the left quad was throbbing also from the fatigue, but the right one was something special. I felt it bad at the next climb.
I pushed through the rest of the lap 6, shaking things off. I actually did ok, considering that with both crashes, I had only dropped 2 minutes of pace off the previous lap. At this point, I had to get lap 7 done faster than any lap I had done so far. I was pretty spent at this time, I wasn’t able to pull it off. I was able to maintain and finished the lap about 30 seconds off my lap 5 pace.
I’ll admit, when I came across the finish line, I was pretty happy that I wasn’t allowed to start an 8th lap. It was good to be done. All said and done, I had completed 7 laps in 3 hours, 36 minutes and 20 seconds. It was a tough day of racing and I was feeling a little beat up. I love that feeling of accomplishment.
I hung around for the results to find out I had placed 10 out of the 20 guys. I felt good about my finish as it was improvement over my spring results. I had placed up with some guys that had kicked my tail at Woolly and I left less of a relative gap between myself and the leader.
I’m not sure if I will join the Marathon class race again next year or try out the category races. I really like the long distance races, but wasn’t a big fan of the repetitive laps on the same course. This might be something I have to think about before doing a 24 hour race. Although, I love the idea of competitively completing a 24 hour solo race.
Have you completed any races like this in the past or even the same ones I did? I’d like to hear your thoughts on these types of races and how to mentally prepare for them vs a point to point race, like the Chequamegon 40.
Lap Splits and Course Time
Lap Split Course Time
Lap 1 28:25 28:25
Lap 2 29:11 57:36
Lap 3 29:28 1:27:04
Lap 4 30:36 1:57:40
Lap 5 32:01 2:29:41
Lap 6 34:01 3:03:42
Lap 7 32:35 3:36:20