Tuesday, February 2

2016 Icycle Night Downhill Race

XC silliness over...

I had a rough idea how to get to my actual night downhill run and survive it, mostly based on all the mistakes I've made in the past and how exactly to avoid them.

I decided to keep myself as busy as possible to stay away from any beer that might cloud my decision making process.  I looked for a bike wash but came up empty.  I took a shower, even tho I knew I was just gonna get back on my bike.  I ate a box of mac and cheese, because eating is something smart people do.

I got dressed for my practice runs and headed out the door to get on the shuttle.

photo cred: Nik Fedele
I've failed miserably at this before.  Too excited about packing in as many runs in as possible.  Logic made fuzzy with too many beverages after the XC race.  Too much shared stoke from the giddy as school children shuttle monkeys packed into the back of a UHaul truck.

I wanted two runs in the daylight... at a very slow pace... so I could actually see the lines.  What few sections of rough terrain that might occur from top to bottom might feel like nothing on a full suspension bike, but they can absolutely knock you off into the woods if you let them surprise you in the dark with a rigid fork.  I would know.  I checked my lines, took it easy, and felt like for the first time in I don't know how many years, I might actually have an idea of where I want to be on the trail to not end up in the shit.

One night practice run to check my lights.  Seemed smart enough... just to make sure my lines are totally dialed.  Nick told me that Chris Joice had bumped his gearing to something taller after the XC race.  Doh.  I never considered the amount of pedaling I might have to do, being that on all my earlier runs, I was only focused on the good lines.  I got through my one practice run with my lights dialed and waited for the race to start.

Waited around for the shuttle, loaded up with the other three guys in the Hard Ass (full rigid) category, and headed up to the top.  I talked to Chris and confirmed that he had decided to go with a 32X16.  I'm still rolling a 32X20.  This might suck a bit.

I rolled out from my start, and as soon as I hit the first section with any amount of roots and rocks, I was not where I planned to be.  All the jostling wiggled my bar-mounted light enough for it to slip off the bulge, come slightly loose, and point at a spot about five feet in front of me.  I still had 700 lumens on my head, so all was not entirely lost, but the lack of 1500 going out in front of me was noticeable.

I bobbled a few more times, and on the flatter more pedally sections, my stupid 32X20 is duly noted.  I came around the second to the last corner where I wanted to, people screaming at me, bottle rocket going off somewhere nearby, came unclipped from my right pedal, and found out just how hard it is to sprint over thirty yards of grassy field in a climb-friendly gear.

I didn't wait around for the other guys.  I had an agenda.  I went straight back to the cabin, changed to spectator clothes, grabbed a bunch of beer, and went back down to join the screaming idiots in the woods... and be one of them.

When the podium finally took place, I found out I was second... to Chris "I'm way smarter and have a better beard than you could ever dream of" Joice.

photo cred: Icon Media Asheville
When there are only five guys entered in the Hard Ass Class, and one of them gets injured during his practice runs, getting on the podium becomes a matter of being one of the three riders who screw up the least.

As stoked as I was to get second, I was mostly pleased that I finally made a successful run at getting through the Icycle weekend without a DNFs, injury, bad decisions, getting lost or any other manner of self-inflicted mayhem.  Regardless of where I placed in either race, I felt like I was a winner.

I want to say this.  For a guy who used to focus on 12/24 hour racing at a time when 15 watts of light was considered pretty solid, I'm terrible at night riding now.  I'm not sure if it's that my eyes are almost a decade and a half older, or if it's the fact that I probably only ride mountain bikes after dark fewer than five times a year.  On top of that, downhill "racing" is sorta stressful.  Knowing that it takes just minutes of solid concentration, every single move you make counts.  The race will come down to seconds, so every bobble and blown corner not only affects your time, it's also detrimental to your mental focus... if you let it get to you.  Which I do.

What can I say?  Something else to put on the list of "things I don't do so well at."

Right under grammar and decision making and friend picking.

photo cred:Courtney McDonald

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"decided to keep myself as busy as possible to stay away from any beer that might cloud my decision making process"

maybe yur neurons awaken with beer though? like ozzy, ozzy can't say a single word unless he's on stage. When on stage, he comes alive... his neurons are firing on full range. But, once that stint is done, he crawls back into his cave an only one cell exists in his body. He can no longer speak, he lays dormant in his existence till his next appearance.