Sunday, September 16, 2012

MTB Marathon Nationals race report

Whew!  Now that was how a National Championship race should be...hard!

Other than the Whiskey Off-Road 50 race earlier this season, the US Marathon National Championship race boasted one of the strongest field of riders.   Names like Todd Wells, Adam Craig, Carl Decker, Barry Wicks, Alex Grant, etc. toed the start line to see who would take home the marathon stars and stripes jersey.

Adam Craig took top honors last season, but knew that in order to repeat his effort this season he would have to bring his "A" game.  The course this season was a much more difficult course than last year, consisting of 90% singletrack (mostly loose and soft sand) and over 6,000ft of climbing.  In addition to a tough course, we were also having to deal with the smoke in the air from the nearby forest fire.    Temperatures hovered in the mid 80's during the race, which made hydration critical to finish the 53 mile course.

Todd Wells took home the victory while local Bend riders Carl Decker and Adam Craig, and Barry Wicks finished 2nd and 3rd, and 4th respectively.

1st place - Todd Wells

2nd palce - Carl Decker

3rd place - Adam Craig

The race began and finished at the Wanoga Sno-Park.  Starting at 9am, there was a bit of cool air which helped to keep the body temp down.  This didn't last long, however, as the sun rose and quickly warmed up.      For the first 5 or 6 miles, we rode out on a fireroad (very dusty and loose) and the pace was insane initially but then settled down to a temp pace.  As we approached one of the first descents, the pace picked up, and I think it was Adam Craig doing the work.  This descent was very loose and extremely dusty, so much to the point where it was almost impossible to see the trail from the dust kicking up in from the rider in front of you. I was shortly behind and made sure to get in front of the rider close to me to be able to pick a good line.  

Shortly after the descent we had to do a short steep climb up a super sandy section.  Climbing up this section, there was one main line to ride on, if you tried to pass here, you would lose all momentum and zap lots of your energy trying.  We continued climbing as we entered the first singletrack section (Vista Butte) that would consist of many switchbacks.  After a few miles, we turned right and began to descend one of the more fun sections (Ridge Loop trail).  this brought us to the first Aid Station at mile 10.5.  I was roughly 13th at this point, and I could see 4 riders in front of me.

course markings

For the next 14 miles, it was all singletrack and would consist of lots of climbing (very steep in sections) and would bring us to the highest point on the course (nearly 7,000ft).  We climbed up Flagline Trail which starts off very sandy and loose and becomes rocky and technical (and more steep climbs).  This part of the trail is in dense forest, making for some remote riding.  I was riding with Nick Truitt, and Clinton Claasen.  Fellow Oregonian, Even Plews,  (who finished 9th) passed me at this point.  Finishing in the Top 10 at this race is impressive, nice job Evan!

Evan post-race with Mike Ripley (Oregon's best race promoter)

We worked our way down Flagline Trail to Dutchman Flats (Aid Station #2).  Jenny was handing me bottles in the Aid Station and she kept me going without losing my momentum.  From Aid #2 we rode some doubletrack and sort of back-tracked our way on trails we rode during the first 8 miles...more loose sand.  A couple short steep climbs would test the legs, and fortunately at this time, mine were still felling pretty good.  Then there was a 4 mile fireroad section before reaching the Dinah Moe Humm trail.

This section of singletrack really took a toll on my body.  It consisted of lots of switchbacks, steep climbs, and constant rough terrain.  My back was beginning to ache and I could start to finally feel the legs beginning to get tired.  I didn't have anyone in front of me that I could see to help keep me pushing, so at times I felt like I was letting up a little.  Then, fortunately, I caught up to Truitt again and it gave me an extra surge of energy, amazing how that works...mentally.  We passed another rider and eventually would catch up to 2 others before exiting this trail.  Another short fireroad section brought us to the final Aid Station #4 at Wanoga Sno-Park.

For the next 12 miles, the course consisted of some of the sweetest singletrack in Bend (Funner and Tiddlywinks trails).  Of course, these trails are "fun" when you have energy, so considering my legs were beginning to cramp and I was low on energy, I wouldn't necessarily say this last section was "fun".  The first 7 miles are rolling terrain and fast descents, with several technical rocky sections.  Then the final 5.5 miles are all climbing (more technical rocky sections).  This was certainly a challenge to see how much you had left in the tank.  I could feel my tank beginning to run out of gas.  Battling leg cramps, I pushed on as hard as I could passing 1 rider and also getting passed by another.

Sloane just after crossing the finish line - exhausted!

The final 1K to the finish was through the Wanoga Sno-park parking lot.  Crossing the line with a time of 4 hours and 7 minutes was good enough for 18th place.  My goal entering the race was to finish in the Top 15, so I wasn't too far off.  I know the other 5 or 6 riders in front of me where only a short distance ahead, so overall I am pretty happy with my result.

You can read the race report here...

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