6 Hours of Power by mj

Harry and Sally supervised as I packed for the 6 hours of power last weekend.  Once my car was stuffed and ready to go I headed North to Ellicottville, New York to make my second attempt at the 6HOP Solo catagory Sunday afternoon.   The soggy trails made the course a very different race than what we’ve seen in the past compared to traditionally very dry conditions.  Last years first batch of single track and Vulture’s Climb at the beginning of the lap was cut out (I think Mac said) due to some construction occurring along those slopes, so the course started by climbing the gravel road all the way up to the top and into the dirt, roots, roots and more roots.  I was actually happy with that change.  Then after some heavy rains and even a short showing of (m&m.. no, skittle sized) hail Saturday night a portion of the end was also cut off come Sunday morning for safety concerns.  I definitely had my own concerns regarding the conditions at the start line, but mud doesnt keep me away.  Its good for the complexion! 

We lined up for the pre-race meeting and were reminded of the race rules and details including the le mans start… blach!!  Also a moment of silence was taken for a local friend and rider (I’m sorry I do not remember his name) who recently passed away in a bicycle-automobile accident.  Mac said some nice word about him and commented how he would be there lining up with the rest of us if he wasnt “riding in the sky”.  Definitely puts things in perspective when that happens to someone.  What a sad, sad situation, but I think acknowledging him at the race and having an award this year in his memory was such a nice way to remember him. God Bless him and his family. 

Ready, set, bang!  The abundance of cleats clacked and clanked there way down the gravely road way and we all “ran” up and around the 1/4 mile loop back through the start/finish where we grab our bikes and start up the mountain.  I still cannot believe it, but I was NOT the last person to my bike!  Holy Moly, that was truly a first!  The first lap went well.  Not much to report.  I swapped out my front wheel before the race with a spare I brought up that already had a Bonntrager ACX tire on it, instead of attempting the wet terrain with a Dry X.  I roll through the start/finish at 1:19.  I was happy with that time including the run time and head right over to Don (DH Coed Team) and Ian (Freddy Mercury was the Best Front Man Ever) and asked if they could check my front wheel out while I snagged a snack from my cooler.   My front wheel was a little loose (eek!) so they man handled it and tightened it up real good for me and I headed out for lap two. 

The sun was in full effect for the entire race so a few sections did manage to dry up for us through out the day, but the slippy, thick and mud bog sections still outweighed the dry overall.  Bummer.  Normally I dont care and enjoy the technical challenges, but for a six hour race I was a little less than thrilled about it.  I finished up lap two with no problems, but a little concerned with how tired my legs were feeling already.  Thats when I start to analyze… Am I riding too hard?  I actually slowed down a little bit in lap two I cant be riding too hard. Should I slow down even more now?  Should I speed it up?  I dunno!  I’m hungry.

I decide to grab a little more food before I start lap three.  I shared a pit space with Kevin Peters (TOP-Cranberry) and his girlfriend was there as his support.  Bad timing when I came in finishing lap two she was not around so I was on my own for re-fueling.  I started fumbling around through the cooler to make up a crunchy pb and honey sandwich and noticed two young boys sitting in the next pit over just hanging out.  I yell over “can one of you guys help me for a minute?” and they just stare and do not respond like kids would do.  Geesh! A rider in between laps was there also and he walked over to help.  I felt bad and just meant to take advantage of the seemingly bored kids, not the rider prepping for his next lap, but I’ll take what I can get!  (lesson1: do not travel solo to endurance races and prep better next time!) He (never did get a name, but thanks again guy!!)) grabs the gallon of water to re-fill my camelbak, while I smear pb and honey on a slice of bread.  I swap out my bottle in the cage (already pre-made) and he comments there was already way too much water in my camelbak and I need to drink more!  Yikes, thats never good to hear.  I did get through almost all of my first bottle though, so I have been drinking some.  I head up the hill and try not to drip pb or honey on my gloves.  Sticky city, but ohh so yummy!!  I actually never like chunky peanut butter expect for at races.  Normally I’m a straight jiff creamy kinda girl.  Mmmm!  I think the crunching action just helps choking it down in the race scene when eatting anything tends to turn into a task and somewhat difficult.

Before I enter the single track on lap three I decide to let out some air in my back tire and it definitely made a difference.  Made it through a few sections noticably easier than before.  I SO wish I would have thought of that earlier!  Oh well.  I make my way around once again, finish up lap three and decide to check out the standings.  Not exactly sure how long ago the update was from, but I was at least in second place overall if not third.  I was definitely comfortable doing a 4th lap, but wasnt sure how I’d feel after that and figured I’d decide at that time.  I hit up my pit area again and Andy (Kevin’s woman and support crew) and Tiffany Kenny (awesome rider and friend from Ohio) were there to offer some help.  I didnt really need anything though.. of course!  Decided to grab a banana for this climb, but I did ask Tiffany if she could check out the standings in about an hour and meet me on the other side of the start / finish.  Let me know if I was any where near contending with the first place girl or not and then I could decide if I should go for a 5th lap or not.  It would be approaching the 6th hour, so it would be at a good time to be able to squeeze in a final lap or call it a day and wait for the bell.   I head up the hill for a fourth time (lesson3: dont ever try to peel a banana with your teeth.  Eew!)

My fourth lap felt pretty good actually.  I think it was because I was unconsiously thinking “this is my last lap” even though I was trying to tell myself.. “this is NOT my last lap” staying mentally prepared for possible one more.  Attempted trickier was not happening.  When I reached the end of the lap with the Defeet Downhill my hands and forearms were screaming sore.  Bummer!  All over tired and my hands were even blistering some (lesson4: dont wear these gloves for a long race again).  I reach the final switchback across the slope and there is already a collection of spectators and riders hanging out.  There was somewhere between 15-20 minutes left before the 6th hour and whether those riders did not want to complete another lap themselves or they knew their teammates didnt want to go out for another lap they were hanging out and waiting for the clock to strike “6:00:00” and then could cross the finish line for the last time.  If you go through the start / finish even just at 5:59:30 your team would be required to do another lap.  Its officially SIX hours of racing, so that is one of the rules, hense the social hour watching the clock count down. 

Tiffany Kenny was there hanging out too (she was waiting for her husband who was also racing solo) and informed me a solo girl came through over a half hour ago.  (Thanks so much, Tiffany!) With that said and my body was tired and gross enough that calling it quits was far easier than I expected and I waiting it out as well finishing up just after the six hour mark.   Looking back now I’m actually a little disappointed in myself for not giving it a full 100%.  Hanging out for that finish makes me feel like I only gave it about 88.96245% tops.  I dont like that feeling.  You just never know what can happen… the girl ahead could have slowed down greatly or flat out bonked, had a mechanical, whatever… giving me an opportunity to win overall, but I didnt even try for it.  I did manage to win my age group for the day, so I am happy with that, but not without that 88% lingering in the back of my mind.  Hoo Hummm.   (lesson4: 100% every time!)   

I re-packed the car (gotta be the least favorite part of any weekend event), sprayed the bike off, managed a pathetic sink bath for myself and headed home.   I missed the post race dinner and awards (bummer), but I just wanting to get the drive started and over with asap.  

Lastly, a BIG thank you to Matt and Dana Tinkey who let me crash with them and tag along for dinner Saturday night!  Without their company I would not have made the trip up at all.  Thank you, thank you! 🙂

The event director mentioned changing the race date hoping not to conflict with other races again next year, so hopefully the attendance will grow again and I personally hope the course will be a little drier as well!  See you there.. 🙂

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