I rode the Squealer on Saturday. This is an independent, fun race across National. I heard about it from some folks on MTBR and free time worked out perfectly. Pre-ride meeting was Friday night at a bar near REI, where I kicked in my $25 and got my “number.”
the paper plate came with access to art supplies. G came along in the backpack carrier, and she was great for the 45 min and Fat Tire I spent there. I had swung by Ray’s and Adventure to get some armor, just in case, and the carrier seemed to be just the thing to keep the baby friendly while I took care of things. 19 meant I was the 19th rider to start, at 6:19 am. Riders started every 1 minute at the end of the fire road at Somo. Starting here and not at the parking lot was a useful detail to have learned at the pre-ride. G and I cut out early since I had to be up around 4:45 and at Somo by 5:45.
got going in the AM with enough time to hit the “public” baffroom at Denny’s…which is still better than the blockhouse at Somo…tweak a breakpad, strap on my pads, and fix a near crisis where my MP3 player was frozen. I hammered up the first climb, but really didnt ride it so well. The mentality was more about moving forward than how good I could ride tech. Stuff I’d try, or try twice, I didnt just so I could keep moving. Once I got off, I’d just run through a seciton instead of getting back on to try the next obstacle. I did nail a few things I hadn’t hit in a while, since my last 4 National rides were all at night. That at least made me feel like less of a cheater before The King.
Made BV in 45 min, passing about 5 people along the way, and kept hammering towards Telegraph. There’s about a mile after BV that is pretty tame, and I tried to use the time to take mental stock. I felt good, was making good time, the pads were hot as ass but so far were serving me well. I wasn’t worried about crashing in the first half, but figured the aggressiveness and running up formations would lead to some bumps so protection would be a smart call. But gawd they were hot. The stretch to Telegraph is still pretty new to me, and I couldn’t shake memories of my horrible wipeout in ’04 on that trail, so I tried to focus on just being chill and not overthinking the trail. I know I’m solid, and I know its all rideable. I dabbed and walked a few things I could have made, wrote it off to 2 years since having been on the route and not having anyone to follow. I kept telling myself to be patient, let it come to me, the lines would be there…and mostly rode it all til Telegraph from thereon. So far, so good…1:15 down.
The next stretch started with a major HAB, and soon after that was a short hike to get our eggs. It was about 5 min and 100 feet up a steep formation.
C’mere lil guy let me tuck you safely in my pack
The last descent off National is loose and steep, with just enough drops to make it pretty hairy places. I endo’d once in a nasty spot, but the pads saved me hear. As I was going otb I thought to put out my forearm and it totally eased the fall. Along with the kneepads, there was no carnage! Its going to make me think about wearing them a lot more. But there were still ass-hot all day long.
Grinded out the XC finish and made it in about 2:32. I thought I’d be a little faster, cause its not like I’m slow, but wow these epic events really bring out some good riders. I lost a lot of time on the stuff past BV that I didnt know so well. This “race” was won in the downhills for sure, and those guys who were under 2hrs really handled their bikes well. In the last 1/3 of the race, the guys who passed me came and went so fast I never had the opportunity to follow their lines! Next year will be better if I ride this route some more.
Everyone collected and chilled for about another hour as all the riders came in. I found the smoking lounge which was surpisingly popular. Then it was about an 8 mile road ride to Spokes restaurant at Central & Dobbins. I felt good and just wanted to get some rhythm for a change, so got into the lead pack on the road which quickly dwindled to 4 of us. MTBrs are not roadies, they don’t do nuthin right. Met a few of the Missing Link guys and had good chatter. Funniest comment:
“Some roadies were asking me ‘Is this the paper plate race?'”
“Did you tell them yeah, but the entry fee is $200. They’d love it.”
“Yeah tell em roadies almost always podium in this event.”
Spokes is a neat place, a small restaurant that is all about being bike friendly. Really friendly, like 75 bikes piled up everywhere friendly. Had some beer, the hugest burrito ever, got to talk with some of the MTBR folks I’ve been message-boarding with, and the Awards ceremony. Good times, lots of fun. Ironic that I was drunk at 11am, but if you start your day at 4:30am and ride for 3 hrs, I don’t think that should be construed as a sign of alcoholism.
The 30 min ride back to the start was long, but I got to get to know a friend who wound up totally helping us with info on the Shea\51 area the very next week. Yet another reason this was a great day on the bike.