Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tall Oak Challenge 6 Hour recap

Saturday was the Tall Oak Challenge 6 hour mountain bike race at Binder Park in Jefferson City. It was a Midwest Fat Tire Series event that was promoted by Team Red Wheel.

I arrived about an hour before the race started and was really surprised by how many people showed up.  There were tons of vehicles and canopies all over and even though it was pretty wet from a nice morning shower everyone seemed to be in a good mood and looking forward to the race.  There were 36 people in the Men's Solo class so most of the people were competing on either 2 or 3 man teams.  I really didn't have any expectation of how I'd do in the race but I was hoping for a top 10 finish.

We started LeMans style with a nice downhill run to our bikes before we quickly got into the singletrack.  As a solo rider I wasn't worried about being near the front.  I stayed in the middle of the pack and we bunched up and had to stop several times on the first lap.  I thought of it like a warm up lap and tried to learn the trail.  A few people around me got upset over the slow pace of that first lap which I can understand but it was going to be a long day and I wasn't concerned. 

The laps were just under 7 miles but they felt much longer.  There were lots of twists and turns, short uphills, a couple extended downhill sections, a few open field trails and even some cool bridges.

On the second lap the pack thinned out quite a bit.  I fell in behind Jeff YieIding and he pulled me for the lap and made it go by very quickly.  It was probably my favorite lap of the race.  Later in the day as I finished a lap and was out of water Jeff gave me a bottle of gatorade/water.  I don't know what flavor it was and it didn't taste very good but I was grateful for the help.  I was lucky that I had a pit crew to help me between laps.  I drank a bottle of something every lap, ate several GU and clif bars and it would have been much harder if I'd been there on my own.  Minus the one mixup (thanks again Jeff) I was taken care of and able to just focus on riding.   Here's a picture of one of my pit stops.  

After about 3 hours the riding started to wear on me.  I still felt pretty good but my pace was dropping.  It's strange because I was recovering fine on the downhill sections and didn't feel like I had any less power, but the longer I rode the quicker the power would fade.  Early in the day on the longer/rougher hills I'd stay in the same gear and muscle my way up.   After about 3 hours I had to start dropping gears and on each lap I'd have to drop down a little earlier.  It was frustrating but there wasn't anything I could do.

At the 4 hour mark I just wanted the race to be over.  My whole body was tired and even on the downhills I couldn't relax and find a comfortable position.  Around that time on one of the hills where there were back to back rooty sections I came upon a few riders stopped on the trail.  I had someone behind me and I cleared the first section fine but on the second one my front and rear tire hit a root and my bike came to a stop.  I tried to pedal through it but I didn't have enough strength and I fell over.  I didn't unclip and my hands didn't come off my bars; I just flopped.  The guy behind me said "That sounded like it hurt".  It did hurt.  I hit my hip on something and I jammed the index finger on my left hand on my brake lever.  As I got up the other riders rode off and I tried to walk off the pain.  After a few seconds I got back on the bike and was able to ride without pain.  I couldn't really use my index finger for braking, but it wasn't too bad.

At that point I gave up trying to race anybody.  I didn't care if I passed anyone or if anyone passed me.  All I could think about was finishing the race.  I didn't worry about how fast I went, I just focused on riding and tried to block out the fatigue.  

Finishing the race was a great feeling.  I did 9 laps in 6 hours, 9 minutes and 21 seconds.  The solo winner did 11 laps in 6:32:24 and there were 4 people that did 10 laps.  My effort was good enough for 8th place so I met my goal of a top 10.  Here's my lap breakdown:
  1. 41:42
  2. 38:14
  3. 37:24
  4. 38:24
  5. 41:36
  6. 40:41
  7. 43:33
  8. 44:38
  9. 43:09
I guess I peaked on the 3rd lap and went downhill from there.  I'm glad I did the race but I definitely prefer the shorter xc races.  The promoters did a great job and the awards ceremony was pretty entertaining.  

My hip is still pretty sore from my wreck and I walk with a bit of a limp but I went for a ride today at Sac River and it didn't bother me at all so I should be ready for the ICCC Castlewood Race next weekend.  I'm looking forward to it. 

UPDATE:  If anyone is looking for pic's of the event, here's what I've found:


  1. Tough to be out there solo for 6 hours, good job sticking with it.

    Lime flavor was the drink mix, grape is what I like but the store was out so I had to go with lime.

    How about next year you and I team up for the 6 hour two man?

    Good luck this weekend.