As for me, I had a pretty good race overall despite a few mechanicals. Took out the fixed gear Q-ball 29er and cranked up the gearing to 34x16 for the relatively flat course. I pretended to be racer boy with my 1.9 tires and high pressure. Pre-loaded for the race with a bottle of Carbboom and a half pint of Belgian Saisson right before the start.
I played the lead out roll for our team and positioned myself up towards the front for the start. It was a big field and getting caught in the back would not be fun. As expected, when the starting bell rang it was a mad rush off the front, round the campground and up the farm lane to spread the pack. We entered the first piece of singletrack through the cow fields like a swarm of buzzing bees. A pile of riders eats the dirt. Stacked! I avoid this mess and grab a couple of positions knowing we will be entering the tight wooded singletrack shortly. People are jockeying all around and I know it's going to be a cluster once we hit the woods but there's not much you can do about it. I hit the woods riding another fixed rider's wheel (Pat Miller), Camp is right on mine. I'm in good company and we are up towards the front.
What I quickly realize is there are some fast riders with little technical skills. The course itself isn't very technical but there are a few spots to keep you honest. Even the small stuff is jamming some of the riders up and it's having a ripple effect on the train. And that gap that's opening up in front of them? Well you can't do anything about it because there's few places to pass and this isn't one of them. Accept your fate and work with what you've got. Pat, Camp and I grab some passes whenever we have the chance, but the train is still herky jerky as we hit slight rises in the course and the gearies are in the wrong gear and grind us nearly to a halt. What are some of these guys doing up front? Pat drops a chain and Camp and I roll on. I launch the first rock drop, a tricky approach on the fixed gear. CREAK! That's the sound I hear when I touch down, my FuBar has just slipped in the stem. Need to watch that rolling forward. Keep getting it and eventually I pull away from Larry a little and roll through the start/finish and try to wind it up with some open space. On to lap 2.
Larry transitions and Andy chases me down with fresh legs and is on my wheel as we hit the woods. Sweet, just like another day riding in the woods with my friends. I get lazy early on over a log pile and clip a pedal. Eject in 3...2...1...impact on that nice strategically placed rock. Andy calls out to see if I'm alright as he passes. I let him know I'm OK and scoop my bike up and chase. Eventually catch and pass, churn pedals and roll in for the ankle bracelet swap. The girls are ready and Kathy grabs the bracelet and installs it on Julie. These two are like pros! Julie sets off with a big smile and I head for some recovery drink: Endurox followed by a Peg Leg stout. Looks like a long day and I hammered the first two laps, both a hair over 32 minutes for the 7.5 mile course. At this point I'm not sure how those are going to feel later. The course is fast and since it's relatively flat there is nowhere to rest and there's nowhere to hide on the fixed gear.
Julie turns out a faster lap than her pre-ride so she is stoked. Kathy does the same and it's time for me to saddle up again. Out of the gate and whirling cranks. Klasmier knocks on my back door as we enter the woods. We ride together for a bit before I drop my chain for the first of two times on this lap. Not sure why since all was tight on the pre-ride check, but I have a way of stretching chains quickly so I'm thinking I better throw this thing in the stand and check things out but I'm hoping to avoid that until after lap four. Hammer back hard after each of these stops, then lose it again as I flat about 2 miles from the finish. Not enough finesse with these skinny tires when squeezing a rock gap. Get into NASCAR pit mode for the change but recall I swapped pumps with Julie to give her the one that pushes more volume faster, so I'm stroking more than Pee Wee Herman at an adult film. Get enough air back in to feel safe, then take the opportunity to tighten my chain when I notice a broken tooth on my fixed cog. Ah HA! So I really tighten it and hope for the best. Time to hammer again.
Rolling into camp calling for the floor pump and a fresh tube, my friends have my back and I'm in and out quickly, hoping this lap is uneventful. Whirl those cranks again, over and over and over. Three or four miles out from the finish I feel some twinges in the legs. Whoah, must have gone out too hard, too fast, too early, laps 1 and 2 are coming back to haunt me. Like I said, no where to hide on the fixed gear. Fight through it, keep turning, sit and stand, push on through. Fight those demons and push them out. Roll into camp and pound some Endurox which then starts rumbling around in my stomach during my wait for my next go. The girls pull consistent laps and are doing great. Any nervousness seems to have disappeared and they are riding strong and having a good time. We get word Jay had a flat and prep for him rolling in by getting the floor pump and a fresh tube ready. He's in and out quick for a double lap.
Laps 5 and 6 having me feeling rejuvenated. Arms are a little tired from the beating they've been taking on the bumpy course and all of the logs to negotiate, but the legs feel refreshed and I dial the intensity back just a hair for the long haul.
I mount up lights for lap 7 although I definitely shouldn't need them and might even be able to make lap 8 without them but that would be questionable, especially if I have a mechanical. I don't want to make a pit stop between 7 and 8 so I figure I'll just roll with them now. Legs are still feeling good but I'm starting to feel the stiff gear on the little rises in the course. Steady rocking three miles from the finish I hear CLUNK..pause...pause...CLUNK. Hmmmm, that can't be good. I tried to ignore it put it persists and it's coming from the drivetrain and it's loud and sounds pretty serious. When it doesn't go away I pull over for inspection. Shit, looks like that one missing tooth on my cog has turned into 3 missing teeth as a giant chunk of steel is now missing. I've got a 19 tooth on the flip side of the hub, but that's a 3 tooth difference and I that will leave me spinning like a hamster and might require me to add a link to the chain. I decide to push on and hope I don't rip my chain in half. I want to get back as fast as possible to deal with this but I need to be a bit more gentle on the mashing, it's a fine line I'm trying to walk. I wonder what people think about the racket my bike makes as I pass, it is an ugly soundtrack accompanying me my last 3 miles. I make it back to camp and luckily Julie is ready to rock and quickly rolls out for her night lap with Becky (who is on the solo gig) while I deal with my mechanical.
No one has a spare 16T cog, John offers a 15T but man I do not want to go harder at this stage of the game. Luckily Jay has a spare fixed wheel with a 17T so I do a wheel swap with the help of our newly arrived pit crew and I'm back in business. Grab some of JoJo's pasta she has arrived with, put down a Peg Leg stout and I'm ready for action again. Kathy wants to keep her spot following Julie in the rotation which is of course fine, I told them this was their race, I'm just here to help them out. Kathy rolls with Amy and Becky and returns full of smiles and a great lap. The temps are still very warm and a full moon has risen in the sky, hard to beat those conditions for some night riding.
The girls let me know that at 4 laps each, they've decided they've had their fill and are ready to kick back and work on the keg. Who can blame them, they've had a great day of riding and the party is in full swing, they deserve to tip a few back. I roll out on number 8 unsure of my own plan from here on out. With the legs feeling pretty good midway through my lap I decide 10 laps at 75 miles sounds like a nice even number and stick that in my head as my personal finish line. Roll into camp and ask for some water, eat some Clif blocks, wolf down some Oreos and head back out. Only 2 more to go. At the first rock drop Klasmier catches me and gives me a hard time for rolling it instead of launching it. Sorry, no more slipping handlebars for me, I just want to stick a fork in this ride. We ride together until we hit the farm road where he can big ring it, he's on his first double lap of the day and finishing out his race. One more to go for me and I roll through the transition area and grab a few more Oreos to eat on the fly. I see the clock and realize I can get another lap in after this one but soon push that thought out of my head. The legs have it in them, but I'm done with the hamster wheel, this is my 10th time around this course and there's nothing left to see. Number 10 is uneventful and I cruise it at a pace that is more relaxed than previous laps. Roll into camp, let them know I'm heading for the transition tent and cashing out and I'm done. Just in time for beer as the rain sets in. Perfect timing.