Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Team PedalPlay rider "Jason Betz" WINS AGAIN!
Butts Park's Revenge MTB Race Report - 9.28.2008
I guess the first thing I should mention is that I decided to race this one on my singlespeed. That makes the second time I've raced it now. The first time was in March at the Baton Rouge Battle. Various reasons led me to race it, but probably the biggest was the fact that it is just such a fun bike to ride. Most would agree that Butts Park is the "right" singlespeed course. I guessed that a 34/16 gearing would be about right, and headed for Clinton, MS.
We pre-rode the trail Saturday afternoon, and it was in perfect condition. I had a blast and was slightly surprised by that because I didn't remember enjoying the trail as much last year. I wasn't sure about my gearing choice after the pre-ride because I thought it might get a little tough towards the end of a four lap race. Then I pretended that a race day endorphin surge would be there to help me turn the pedals, and ignore the reality that I would be hurting after four laps of that gear.
My final question was whether to race in the Singlespeed or Sport class. Both were appealing to me, but I figured that since I have raced all the other races this year in Sport, I should continue with that. However, it does make you question your sanity to be on the starting line with only one gear when most of your peers are racing with multiple gears.
On the starting line for only the second time with a heart-rate monitor, I sat amused as my HR went up as the minutes until start went down. I'm sure seeing Eric Spina's face on the line helped this escalation. I remembered that this guy raced very well in Oxford and that he was a fast roadie just getting started racing mountain bikes. The last guy fitting this description was Keith Moore from Florida who you'll certainly hear more from next year. The first lap began with a short sprint to a gap that opened to a nice long section of doubletrack. I think I went through the gap in about third or fourth place. I remember seeing Mobile Velo colors and then focusing that into Kevin Suggs and Tagg Rogers. I thought I'd try real hard to blow up right off the starting line and decided to go ahead and try to get around them before the singletrack began. I made it around and hit the trail in first place.
I'd say most of the first lap was spent with me thinking that I was going way too hard to continue the pace for four full laps. During the lap, I caught what I think was the entire 19-29 Sport class racing together in a tight line. Luckily the timing was perfect and I didn't get snagged trying to pass them. They were cool and allowed an easy and safe pass. The problem was that I passed them just in time to start a long straight section. Again, I am on a singlepeed so I am worried that I'd be seeing them all passing me right back. With a cadence probably matching my HR, I kept them behind me until the tight trail began again and I could relax back in its safety.
At the end of my first lap, I noticed a group of what I figured were the Sport 19-29 class and maybe a few of the 30-39 racers following only a hundred yards or so behind me. It was going to be hard to keep them behind me for three more full laps, but I was certainly going to try. I had to balance settling down from the crazy fast start and holding onto my lead.
At the end of my uneventful second lap, I noticed that I had increased my lead on the chase group. I also noticed that my legs were feeling the effects of my gearing choice and first two laps. This was not good at all! Halfway through the race, and my legs feel like they might cramp any second.
Sure enough, about two-thirds of the way through my third lap, cramps found me. Man, these things are harder to shake than the horseflies in Clear Springs when they catch you! Even better than the cramps was seeing that Eric Spina had closed the gap and was again about a couple of hundred yards behind me as we were starting our fourth and final lap.
I had to race another whole lap with cramping legs and a loosening grip on my first place podium spot. I remember at one point, probably after one of the "climbs" while my legs were screaming profanities at me, about what I would say to Eric as he passed me during our final lap. Then, I remembered thinking about how hard I had ridden for those first three laps and that I had to do whatever I could to keep my place. I focused on that alone for my final lap. What I noticed was that I couldn't produce the same power with my cramping legs, but I could maintain a very high cadence without hurting too bad. One problem. . . NO GEARS! I started working the course and trying to use its topography to my advantage. I tried to gain back the time I lost slowing on the climbs and accelerating slower out of turns back when the trail allowed the high cadence spinning. I also reminded myself that Eric's legs might have been feeling exactly like mine.
In the end, I won first place with only an 18 second margin and a true belief that I had just finished one of my hardest races ever. Special thanks go out to Eric for the push. Does an average HR of 3 beats per SECOND mean anything?