Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fontana Night Train

The 2008 Night Train 12 Hour ended up being another good time. After last year’s course of 1200 ft of climbing in 5.5 miles, I was sure they couldn’t add any more climbing. Instead, I was greeted at registration with a new course profile showing 2400 ft of climbing in 9.3 miles. I had a good feeling about the race, as I couldn’t have asked for a course better suited to me. It kind of helps when you have to hold your bike and all your riding gear to break 145 lbs.

This year’s race started once again with a short lemans run. The run was sort of different, as we had to run/jump over all the bikes that were patiently waiting to be picked up. I had a sad moment on the run, as my bling finally bit the dust and broke. Perhaps I’ll write a strongly worded letter to express my disappointment that my 99 cents only bought me a mere 500 miles of offroad bling. So I was left with only the chain for the day. Jeremy Hargroves ended up being the first guy back to the bikes, while I was close enough to the front in 4th or 5th. The course went down a paved road for 100 yards or so before going straight up the steepest climb on the course. I ran the first steep section of the climb, and then middle-ringed it the rest of the way up. It only took middle-ringing it once to keep me in the granny gear every other time up it.

I managed to pass a team guy or two on the climb and was rewarded with some great rolling and twisty NC singletrack. The middle part of the course flowed really well and has some nice little rollers you can carry your momentum over. I totally forgot about a rock garden on a downhill section and took a horrible line through it going way too fast. I don’t know how I managed to stay upright, but I was super thankful my front teeth didn’t end up embedded in a big rock. After some more rolling, the climbing began again, this time with a long gradual climb (maybe 1.5 mile or so?) of doubletrack and fireroad sections. I was glad to see that most all of the climbing added was pretty much smooth and wide open. After reaching the top of the fireroad and getting up a short singletrack climb with switchbacks, it was time to not pedal for a bit and roll back down the mountain.

The new singletrack descent at the top was nice, and connected back to the trail from last year with the Lewellyn descent. This descent is really fast and super rocky, so it definitely bounces you around and does a nice job of making your fingers feel broken with the quickness. After reaching the bottom, all that’s left in the course is a mile or so of rolling singletrack, with 3 or 4 short steep climbs you can just power over. I rolled in for the first lap 2 minutes off of Jeremy. I was with him at the top of the climb, but he crushed me on the descent. I suspected he couldn’t hold that pace for long, as I was going a lot harder than I wanted to at the start.

I didn’t see him at all the next lap, but caught him at the top of the climb during the third lap. We rode together for a bit, and I dropped him a bit on a rolling climb, but he caught me again at the bottom of the Lewellyn descent. I was able to drop him soon after though, and never really saw him again. After this I was putting 4 or 5 minutes a lap on him, and we had both left everybody else way behind. Of course, I didn’t realize how much time I was gaining until 5 or 6 hours later, so I was still working harder than I probably had too. The climbs got more and more fun as the day went on, and the top 1/3 of my cassette was definitely coming in handy. Lewellyn continued to destroy my hands, and I had to double up the fingers on the brakes to make it down after the fourth lap.

The rest of the race went smoothly though, and the pit stops were hovering around 5-10 seconds. Dave and Mike from Infinit nutrition were on hand for the day and did a great job of keeping me fueled up. They were mixing up infinit all day for all the other racers to try as well. Infinit definitely kept me rolling well on the day, as my nutrition for the entire race was just 11 bottles of infinit and ½ a pack of clif bloks. So much simpler than juggling gels and e-caps and the like…

I almost had a nice boost of confidence when I was on my 10th lap and found myself in the bottom 1/3 of my cassette. I was thinking, man, my legs must feel great, I haven't been this far down my cassette in hours. And then I realized I was in the granny gear...

After getting some splits, I realized I only had to do 11 laps, so I was happy to grab the light and get the lone night lap over with. I rolled into the finish with 102 miles in 11:18, with over 26,000 ft of climbing. Definitely good to win a race, and the Superfly was smooth despite all the rocks. I felt surprisingly great the next day, with no soreness at all. If you're looking for a low-key race with a party atmosphere afterwards, the night train definitely fits the bill. Next up for me is an attempt at playing a roadie racer for a day, but then I’m back on the Rig for the Shenandoah 100.

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  1. Derek said...

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