2014 Rocky Hill Roundup Race Report

Photo by Ingot Imaging

Photo by Ingot Imaging


Well now, lookie here! Race season is upon us! Yay!

I’ve been pretty anxious so far this year wanting to get out and race. This year I have moved up to Cat2 which means longer races. Twice as long as last year. Longer races and faster racers. I anticipated that I would go from competing for top 5 spot to a mid-packer. Given what I did know about other Cat2 racers in my age category, I felt that I’d be able to do okay, although I definitely wouldn’t be a contender by any stretch.

In the weeks leading up to this first race, I again followed the Time Crunched Training Plan in an effort to make the most of my limited training time. My typical weekly time is under 6 hours so I definitely have to make the most of what time I do have, which means lots of higher intensity efforts, which for the most part is fine by me.

What isn’t really fine by me was how much time I’ve been forced to put in on the trainer so far. The weather has been moody with gorgeous days interspersed with frigid and wet days. Ah, well, that’s what Sufferfest videos are for, right?

The day before the race, I played it smart and took it nice and easy, staying off my feet and generally taking it easy. Oh wait, no, that’s not what I did… What I did, was work on my feet for about 12 hours, up and down a 6 ft ladder, installing acoustical foam on the ceiling of my wife’s dance studio. Getting home only to have to spend another 2 hours prepping bike and gear and getting loaded, finally falling into bed exhausted, tired, and sore… Fitfully ‘sleeping’ with cramping back and leg muscles, coupled with race anxiety…

Anyway, being familiar with Rocky Hill, I knew pretty much what to expect. A steep climb right off the bat that will surely blow you up if you aren’t careful with your start. My plan was to take it easy on the climb, keeping my effort well under control and try to make up time in the singletrack.

On the line, there was a bit of chatter among all the unfamiliar Cat2 faces. We had a sizable field, with 36 racers lining up at the start. At the whistle folks mashed, and mashed hard.

Time to race!

Time to race!

I let them go. I had no intentions of spiking right off the bat. That almost cost me as I didn’t fight for any lead and not 150 yards from the starting line a rider went down, tangling up a few others. This happened a couple of riders behind me so I was unaffected.

The climb to the top of Fat Chuck’s was uneventful other than lots of jostling for position. I was a little surprised at how impatient this group of riders were so early in the race on a section of trail where passes are difficult and plenty of passing chances coming up very soon. Perhaps these folks were not very familiar with the trail? I don’t know, but by and large until the top of Fat Chuck’s, the leaders were not very spread.

That did change once we hit the double track and Fat Chuck’s. At this point, I estimated that I was between 10 and 15 places back. We had a lot of riding to do, so I wasn’t concerned, and again, I wasn’t expecting any podium opportunities or anything either.

At Fat Chuck’s, there were no walkers. This is in contrast to the Cat3 races where Fat Chuck’s is lined on both sides with off bike walkers, pushing their bikes to the top. No, in this race, everyone blasted up Fat Chuck’s and the lead pack was spreading out.

Shredding Karaway

Shredding Karaway

I made decent time through the singletrack all the way until the far back doubletrack section on Trail of Pines. It was here that I started not feeling so great and I started getting some cramping in my left calf.

Chris motoring on

Chris motoring on

Chris W. who had been on my wheel pretty much the whole race, came around and dropped me. I was left to wallow in my misery for a while. At this point in the race I resigned to just take it easy and enjoy the ride. It was around mile 11 and I just didn’t have it in me. I was already feeling a bit dejected as I just wasn’t feeling as fast as I’d wanted. I hadn’t caught anyone in the singletrack and it was a steady stream of passers from the older age groups who started behind us. All last year, it had been me doing the passing of the earlier age groups, and now here I was getting passed what felt like constantly.

More older age group passers

More older age group passers

Around mile 12, I entered the ‘why am I doing this’ frame of mind and just eased off to enjoy the ride. It was a beautiful day and I was resigned to just have a fun day in the woods.

Punchy climb just before Leaping Lizards

Punchy climb just before Leaping Lizards

I hooked up with a Master’s rider and we rode together for a few minutes, commenting on the day and the trails. As I cleared the last little rooty climb and made the turn onto Leaping Lizards, I noticed that I felt much better, eased around the Masters rider and let ‘er fly down Leaping Lizards. I even hit the ramp just for fun.

Hit the ramp?  Hell yes!

Hit the ramp? Hell yes!

This was a good turn of events for the rest of my ride. After blazing down Leaping Lizards, I could tell I was feeling much better and I pressed on the gas. I was feeling much better and started passing more and more backmarkers of earlier age groups. And then up ahead, I caught site of Chris W. again. I expected that I wouldn’t see him again.

A little recovery goes a long way

A little recovery goes a long way

I easily closed the gap and held his wheel as we cruised down the trail beside the fence line.

It was here that Kirby W. and David O., our racing buddies from Cat3, caught up to us. They had made up the 4 minute stagger time and we were now riding together. They were also riding with Gary C. from Lakeway and we all entered Black Trac together.

In Black Trac, I really got a surge of energy. Black Trac is a lot of fun, and you also know that the end is near. There’s 2 punchy climbs in this section and once you reach the top of the final one, it’s a rip roaring fun descent to the finish. At this point I was feeling pretty good and having a lot of fun. Kirby, David and Gary started to pull away a little so I scooted around Chris W. and grabbed ahold, bound and determined to ride to the finish with them.

Kirby rocking his new pink kit

Kirby rocking his new pink kit

We made great time through Black Trac and then we all opened it up on the final descent. As we popped out onto the double track, I tucked in behind Kirby and settled into to draft until the finish. Kirby was tucked in behind Gary, with David behind me. We were all one train heading down the double track to the finish. Kirby made his move a little too early and came out from Gary to meet the nice 15mph headwind. He should have let Gary keep pulling. =)

As nobody in my age group was anywhere nearby, I was content to let these 3 guys duke it out for their final placements in the 14-16 positions in their age group. I rolled across the finish tired and done, somehow managing 15th in our age group.

15 of 36 starters

15 of 36 starters

A few thoughts. People were always quick to say that riders in Cat2 will be more friendly and more professional. Sadly, I didn’t see this as true in my first race as Cat2. I found that there was a much higher number of impatient and irritated sounding age group passers. Some making forced passes on narrow trail, and then cutting you off. Particularly when the passer is quite a ways back in their field. It’s one thing for the race leader and the few directly behind to push for a quick pass, but for 12 in your field being a dick to get around? I don’t get that.

The next thing that I was told about Cat2 was that you would see fewer lone wolf hot shots showing up sporadically to race. Again, I didn’t see that one holding true either, at least for this race. I did do a bit of research, looking at people who had pre-registered to try to get a gauge of competition. Many of the names had very few, if any, mountain bike race history. And sure enough, at the end, 6 of the top 10 in my age group looked to be either very sporadic racers, or more interestingly, primarily road racers dipping their toes into mtb racing.

I mean, that’s great and all for race promoters, but one thing I really liked about our Cat3 group is that we got to know pretty much everyone and we were all very friendly towards each other. I hope to make those same kind of bonds in the Cat2 field, and hope that we don’t end up with a lot of one off racers.

Perhaps the detail above can be attributed to the ‘One License to Rule Them All’ USA Cycling rule this year. That is, the single $70 annual license works for all disciplines (except BMX I think), thus encouraging more cross discipline racing. Again, I’m not against that, I just hope that people keep coming around and build that camaraderie in this group.

In the end, first race a success? I guess so. I finished mid-pack, as expected. I need to work out what happened to me at mile 12. My body needed that break, but I would prefer to not have to hit that lull in a race. Other than that one lull, I did manage a good pace, pushing myself pretty much at limit the whole time, while also preventing a blow up. Nutrition and hydration seemed good so I’ll keep with that for now, but anticipate I will need to be sure to take on more water as it gets warmer.

Race Videos
Youtube – Rocky Hill Roundup Mountain Bike Race
Vimeo – Rocky Hill Roundup Mountain Bike Race

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 168 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 10:00AM
Nutrition: 2 serving oatmeal and 2 eggs for bfast, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1 water bottle during race, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Nice day, 50-60, clear
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs, arm warmers, was a bit warm later into the race
RPE: Felt pretty good throughout
CTL: 49.3
TSB: -8.9 (rising)

Lap 1:

About TC

Long time mountain biker, recent mountain bike racer. Borderline unhealthy obsession with mountain biking, constantly drawn to hit the dirt and share my experiences.

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