Carrabassett Backwoods Duathlon

This past weekend, I raced in the Maine Huts and Trails Backwoods Duathlon put on by Baxter Outdoors (a division of Baxter Brewing). It was a small local race in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, but despite its small size and it being a first year event, the entire experience was top notch.

 

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My girlfriend and I stayed at the Stratton Brook Hut, a part of the Maine Huts and Trails system the Friday night prior to the race thinking it’d be a good way to help support the trail system there and really get a proper Maine backwoods experience. Once settled, we were provided with an amazing trail dinner of sweet potatoes, a bean salad, cole slaw, and corn bread with a chocolate cupcake for dessert. If you’re ever in the area riding these trails, I’d highly recommend staying at the huts. After dinner, we relaxed for a bit before heading to bed.

Race morning came quickly and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Bigelow mountain range and breakfast in the main lodge. They had provided breakfast omelets but having to race in a few hours, I stayed with a small bowl of oatmeal with some fruit and a couple of home fries and copious amounts of coffee. We then prepped a couple of PB and Js for after the race and headed back down the mountain to the start.

At the start, the atmosphere was perfect. It was a small race with 60 competitors and that gave the race a very intimate feel. It was great to see that despite a “backwoods” locale a sizeable group of people wanted to come out and race a bit and help support the trails in the area (the sponsor, Carrabassett Coffee Roasters, was making a donation pf $0.50 for each mile that all the competitors raced). At the end of the day, CRNEMBA got a couple hundred dollars to improve an already world class trail system.

The bike was a mass start on a 3.5 mile flat stretch on the narrow gauge. The pace of the lead group was relentless (we reached speeds well above 25 mph) and everyone was so ready to go, that trying to get a gap on anyone was futile. Fortunately, I was able to “make the selection” of the front group as we started the 600 ft climb up Crommet’s.

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The efforts I had made on the narrow gauge caught up with me as I mashed my way up Crommet’s. This was a significant steady climb that had some serious pitch changes so you were constantly changing gears and cadences and really wore out my legs. I was glad when we finally made it to the top and I began the descent on Oak Knoll in third position.

I had heard rumors about how amazing the Oak Knoll trail was and had been anxious to actually ride it. I can guarantee that this trail lives up to the hype and then some. It’s a purpose built mountain bike trail that is beautifully bench cut into the hillside and includes tons of berms and rock features to keep you guessing but is so incredibly flowy that I was smiling the entire way down. Without a doubt the best trail I’ve ever ridden. Period. A lot of credit goes to the local NEMBA chapter for building an incredibly well designed sustainable trail that is incredibly fun to ride.

As I spun back into transition, another racer zoomed by and I was off running in 4th place.

Despite really working it on the bike, my running legs felt good and I quickly made a pass on another runner and moved up to third. I kept running hard, hoping that I might be able to take back some of the time I lost on the bike. However, it was not to be. I ran well the entire to finish the race third overall and second in the solo division.

I was incredibly happy with how well I raced and it felt good to relax with the other racers and enjoy a cold beer. At races, it amazes me the sense of camaraderie that you develop with your fellow racers. It was great talking to everyone, many of whom were locals, and hearing all the work they do to maintain and enjoy the beautiful trail system up in Carrabassett Valley. I would definitely say that those trails are the best in New England and I would highly recommend checking them out.

 

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http://carrabassett.nemba.org/

Wilmington Whiteface 50k/100k June 7, 2015

This past weekend Jon Tobin ( 100k ) and I (50K) participated in The Wilmington Whiteface 50k and 100k in Wilmington NY.  The morning of the race started off with a bit of a surprise of 30 degree temperatures that would thankfully get to around 38 by race time and close to 70 by mid day.  This was the first race like this that either of us have ever done and I can’t wait to ride it again next year.  The total field was around 500 racers from all over the country with 70 in the 50k and the rest riding the 100K.  The course was a mix of paved roads, jeep roads, buffed out single track, and some muddy rocky rooty not so fun single track, but that is what maked this a great event.  Oh did I mention there were hills?  The 50k was just over 3,000 feet of climbing ( not too bad as long as you kept eating ) but the 100k was around 8,500+.  The course was an out and back set up, so while you were enjoying the 40+mph descents you had to keep in mind that you were going to ride back up the same hill on the way back.  The real nasty part of the ride was at the end when you returned to the mountain and were most likely searching for your 3rd or 4th wind.  At this point the course took you back into the woods into the mud with plenty of slick rocks and roots.  The trail took you up the mountain and spit you out onto some of ski slopes and most thought they were home free once they started heading downhill, only to realize they had to turn and go back up the trail to the top of the chair lift.  At the top you entered back into the woods onto one of the black diamond trails to head down to the finish.  I think at this point I was letting my bike take me for a ride and just hoped a tree didn’t jump out in front of me.  As for the results, Jon and I both finished the race in respectable times and are planning on riding it again next year and we hope some of you will join us up there to show support of NEMBA.

 

 

Jon Tobin at the finish!!

Jon Tobin at the finish!!

Kenda Cup East #3 Millstone Grind

Well this was a wild one!

Weather took a turn for race day and we were treated to a brisk, wet, muddy day out on the race course.  Forecast didn’t scare myself, Eric or Tim however and we all went all in for the Marathon class because we obviously wanted to spend as much time in those conditions as possible.

I feel bad, I partially talked Tim into trying the marathon distance, he was looking for a good training ride for the Carrabassett race in July and decided to go for it even though it was maybe a bit beyond his current comfort zone.  I think its safe to say he got some good training in…

We were rewarded for our efforts with some Heady Topper and an awesome meatball sub.  Great event, highly recommended.

For any interested here is my full detailed account.  Its a good one, things got a bit crazy out there.

Here are some pics of the damage:

modeling some fresh turtle fur for their reps that attended the race.

modeling some fresh turtle fur for their reps that attended the race.

this is gonna need some love.

this is gonna need some love.

Kenda Cup East #2 Weeping Willow

Dust bowl 2015!  I don’t know about anyone else but when I blow my nose its still coming out brown.  Super dry and super fast course this year.  Great event as always and a good first shock to the system getting used to race efforts early season.  This was my first race back in a while and my first racing a geared bike in close to 10yrs.

Needless to say I was late with my shifts 98% of the time.  But I was expecting to do worse than I did in the Expert Vet 1 field so I’ll take that as a “win”.  I have accepted the fact that I don’t really do well against most of those guys unless the race is at least twice as long.  Hopefully I’ll figure out how to shift by Millstone and the Marathon class will have a bit more attrition.

Here is my full account for those interested.

I was really pleased with the turnout from the team.  I was trying to run around and get pics of everyone but probably only managed about 2/3.  We had a great presence overall and it was great to hang out and talk shop at the team tent.  Felt like everyone had a hard but fun day out on the trails.  Looking forward to more of the same this season!

Home base, right next to the podium of course.

Home base, right next to the podium of course.

this race we WELL attended.

this race was WELL attended.

Jason

Jason

Joe

Joe

Tim right before he took the holeshot

Tim right before he took the holeshot

Win the Party – If You Don’t Win the Race

It’s always a party when I go to Blacksburg, VA in the Spring. In it’s ninth year, a group of friends meet at my college roommates (Chad) place in Jefferson National Forest. Huge rides, great people and lots of laughs for days. It’s always that, guaranteed. Each year has it’s own memories and things that stand out… this year was pretty special. We definitely won the party.

First stop – Carvins Cove, Roanoke, VA. Wait… it’s Thursday am, I’ve already ridden Patapsco Valley State Park (PVSP) on Monday, Tues and Wed. Putting in like 15mi each day, if you know me at all, you know my love affair with that place. Ok, Carvins. I rode here last year and loved it, but really had no idea where we were going; lost, we wandered, made some wrong turns but could tell the place was pretty awesome.

This year the entire group decided to meet here and kick off this Spring Classic. Folks that knew where they were going and could actually read a map, kind of. This is the first twist… I pull into the lot at Carvins and see all the regular idiots, new bikes, etc, taking it in. And then someone sticks out, I know the face, the stance… but it doesn’t belong here. Out loud, “is that my brother?”. See, Dave (brother) and I always do this trip, every year and we always invite B (brother). But it’s far, kids, schedules, it’s a big trip and he’s never been. But there he was, minus the beard. Chad and my family pulled off the surprise… same story, thirty years later.

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Carvins Cove rips. 17 miles of flowing, killer singletrack all day, we found it all. If you want to go bigger you can add in the big fire road climbs, tack on more loops. We caught a few crazy lightning storms in the mountains, a douse of rain, made it even more amazing. The folks in Roanoke are doing amazing job leading the way with building sustainable trails around a water reservoir. And they may have built one of the best technical trails I’ve ever ridden in the Rattlin’ Run. Go here, now… we’re off to Blacksburg.

I love Blacksburg and Jefferson National. I say it every year, the elevation, technical, the downhills, you feel like you’re going out into it, the depth. There’s a very distinct difference in riding parks, reservoirs, local trail and National Forest. You can feel the difference of wandering into that scale… and not to diminish those other destinations but places like Jefferson and where we’re headed next are special. It’s big and it’ll make you stop and really look around. Take some inventory. Blacksburg was perfect, as expected. The riding was huge Friday and Saturday, trails in great condition. All these guys bring something to the table and I love them all. To see them ride better than last year, the new bikes, the hilarity, the food (Cheffe)… it’s all good and that just doesn’t happen when you rodeo 14 people. Sunday was a day off, needed. And we were headed to finish this trip off… Southern Traverse.

Riding the Southern Traverse was on my list. I had ridden some of this part of the VA mountains in the SM100, which was a fail for me last year, so I was anxious to get back. We pull in Sunday to the Stokesville Lodge run by Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring. When you pull into an A frame window covered lodge, passing the Trek trailer on the driveway and up to nothing but bikes on racks you know you’re getting into something good.

If you have any interest in going on a Mountain Bike trip with your friends this is the place to go, hands down. I’ve been to Sedona, Downieville, KT and lots of other places and granted, I have an affinity for the east coast but this place is good. The lodge is fully set up, beautiful actually. I think it could sleep 15, at least, comfortably. The views are amazing, the place is totally appointed, Chris is a super nice guy… and you’re in George Washington Natl’ forest.

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Riding the Southern Traverse is no small task. 36 miles of National Forest, exposure, fire road climbs, absolutely huge, full smile screaming downhills. The geography is constantly changing from the beginning climbing up the fire road to getting onto the spine and the ever changing rock gardens as you climb up to the highest elevation. Pinning it on the downhills through pine and leaves and maybe 5 inch wide singletrack makes this a must do on your mountain bike bucket list. I was lucky enough to do this with such a great group. Sixteen of us set out on this… well, fifteen but New Steve showed up while we were pulling in. Lucky for him. Everyone rode so strong and had such a great day.

The highlight for me were the rolling hills back in. About nine miles of dirt road, road and insanely beautiful views. We broke a crank, flatted 3 times, suffered, saw a River Monster, ran an ambulance and a tow truck, took mid ride naps and everyone finished. It wasn’t a race but we definitely won the party.

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Next up… less partying – some racing.