Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hungry Mother State Park Race: Fall Fear

Two weeks ago we went down to Hungry Mother State Park south of here near Marion, VA. This is a small local race that was actually cancelled earlier this year. But a local rider felt strongly enough that it should continue that he took it upon himself to pull it together. Now that is some mountain bike racing love.

He was expecting 10 people and he got almost 40. They ran out of numbers and had to write them down by hand on paper. How cool is that. Oh, I'm writing this report as a spectator by the way. My wife raced and I watched. Well my wife and son.

It was pretty chilly when we got there. The kids race had 2 little kids and a 13 year old that was practically riding wheelies.
Basically a one lap up/back to some cones in a parking lot. I hope next year they run the kids on some dirt because Hungry Mother, unlike many mountain bike venues actually has some easy trails that kids can handle.

Then it was time for the big kids to race. .
It was pretty cool, the promoter ran the racer's meeting than pulled a quick change into his bike clothes and jumped onto the start line. He got second in the beginner class and then stayed on the finish line to help process the finishers.

My wife was SOOO nervous. This was actually her FIRST bike race in 9 years. She rides on the trainer at home, runs and gets outside maybe once a week. She doesn't know it but she is a hoss.

They ran a mass start on the road for about 50' before cutting into the singletrack the runs around the lake

The course is about as non-technical as you can get. I am a firm believer that less technical a course is that harder a race it is. Smooth courses tend to make you feel like you're going slower, so you push yourself to go harder. Technical ability isn't a limiter anymore except for fast cornering.

The experts ran two laps and beginners ran 1 lap. I'd suggest that they have experts run 3 laps, Sports 2 laps, Beginners 1 lap. The top racers came in with 35-40 minute lap times.

It was nice to be on the sidelines. My mindset had switched over to offseason a few weeks earlier. My wife came in ahead of the other sport women and was the only expert woman in the race. So she continued on for her second lap.

She finished with 45 minute lap times. The top experts finished with 35 minute lap. She and my son cleaned up.
Cash money for her, and $100 Savings bond from the Bank of Marion . That has got to be the best kid's race prize I've ever seen. What a great idea.

I as amazed at what they pulled together for this race in such a shor time. Good prizes, pizza, and they payed back money to the racers. No just experts, but other classes too. And they went several deep in each class. My son now knows one of the axioms of mountain bike racing: It doesn't matter how fast you are. You can't win unless you show up.

My wife was quite happy as well. For her first race in such a long time she did all right. Besting several of the men in the 2 lap expert category, and riding the steep CCC trail where others walked.

After she came in, I went out for a lap. The two slices of most excellent free pizza were sitting a little too nicely in my stomach. With the lap times known, I went out. Of course I started my stop watch. So it wasn't going to be a leisurely ride no matter what I'd said earlier about this being the off season.

The lake trail is pretty fun and fast. Smooth as can be. The expert course turned up onto a CCC trail. This was a beast. It had to be one of the steepest cleanable trails I'd ever been on. Lots of trails are steeper but they also are beyond my ability to ride. This trail was right on the edge of being rideable for me.

It was a tease of a trail too. 3-4 sections of straight up spread out with some easier sections in between. The leaves hid any roots/rocks and promoted the rear tire to spin. Man it was tough tough. It was all I had to clean this thing. The kiss of death would have been grabbing my granny granny gear and I was proud to have stayed in 1-2 up from the granny. I was talking with the winner of the race and he said he hits this thing in his middle. WOW.

Back on the Lake trail it winds around the perimeter of Hungry Mother lake. Pretty cool, wide open with some sharp turns. Like I'd said earlier the smooth trail made me feel like I should be going faster. The lake trail dumped out to the road and it sure seemed to take longer than I expected to get back to the finish.
40 minutes. 5 minutes off the leaders. My wife was only 5 minutes behind me, and she ran two laps both at 45 minutes.

I did NOT want to do another.. It's the off season after all.

The park service said they are going to put on the race again next year for sure. I heard that this was one of the best turnouts they've ever had. What a fun time. Everyone from registration to the park service were so nice. And Hungry mother is just a little jewel of a park. It doesn't have the epic trails of Douthat but it is pretty fun.

So put the Fall Fear on your calendar for next year. It's definitely a great race for a beginner or someone who doesn't do much off roading. It's also a great race for more advanced riders cause it will push you to your limit. You get very little recovery on this course.


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