Carvin's Cove Cross Country recap
The Carvin's Cove Cross Country (C4) Race was held this past weekend as part of the Commonwealth Games of Virginia. I'd definitely like to thank Ron and his Crew especially his timing/results people for the wonderful job they do of putting on a mountain bike race (two of them in two days). This is very hard work, and if it weren't for great people like this the rest of us wouldn't have events to go to.
Carvin's Cove is just a jewel of a trail system. It doesn't seem to have the cachet that places like Douthat have, but I think it is some of the best riding around. The guys down there have been doing some awesome trail work and there is even a bridge in the middle of nowhere that is going to be a marvel of construction. There is an incredible amount of variety at the Cove and there is something for everyone.
The course is a great cross section of the Cove. While it isn't as long as races like Douthat I must say that the expert course is very very hard.
I think one of the reasons is that the variety of trails also leads to lots of transitions between different kinds of riding. These transitions definitely throw off my rhythm and makes it harder. For example, we'll transition from a sweeping single track to a flat false flat gravel road. The sensation of speed on a tight single track is pretty high even when climbing. This perception changes dramatically when you hit the road. The wide open double track tricks your mind. False flats always play games in your head but even the downhills seem slower.
We started from the parking lot with a vehicle escort. A very fast junior was motor pacing INCHES away from the car while the rest of us rode in a group about 20' off. Youth vs experience. If the driver had just touched his brakes it would have been nasty. In pro or D3 training camp maybe motorpacing like that would fly, but here it probably wasn't the best idea.
At the start of the gravel the car peeled off and the race began. We immediately hit the hole shot for the single track. It's too easy to overdo it so I just tried to find the happy place and hold it there. This single track trail (Song bird) is top notch fun. We dumped out on the gravel road and I had thought that we would stay on it for a while. I waited for a diesel to get behind but my hopes were shattered as we were directed back onto some single track. Fun track no doubt but still when you are expecting one thing and get another it definitely throws you off.
We then hit the fire road climb. This climb is tough and again the transition from the single track to road is hard for me. Everyone I talked to said the same thing that hitting the road just felt like going backwards. Thankfully we had some cloud cover but regardless it was a hot one for sure. Again I just tried to hold steady. I had a bottle of ice water that I used to pour on my head/neck. I think it helped a little.
There was one guy I had a chance of chasing down but he just dangled off ahead of me and I never was able to catch him. I held steady though and didn't succumb to blowing up. The turn to the downhill was welcome but once again changing up from the climb to a technical, loose, sketchy rocket downhill wasn't pretty. This downhill is pretty darn steep. The top is loose, the middle is sketch and the bottom is divine sweeping fun.
Unfortunately, I got a side wall tear right before the bottom. It was a small tear and I putzed around trying to see if the Stan's sealant would hold it. Wasted a few minutes and precious C02 pumping it up only to find that the tear wouldn't seal. My hands were shaking so much after hanging on for dear life on the downhill that it was real slow going making a flat change.
Stan's is a pain to change a flat. But I tell you, this is the first flat I've had in a race more than 3 years, so I'm going to stick with it. For that matter, this is the first real slowing mechanical I've had since coming back to racing over 4 years ago. Luck favors the prepared I guess, or the luck favors the lucky maybe..
My Big Air didn't have enough oomph to get the tire up to the kind of pressure that I'd prefer in a tube to really be confident of not pinch flatting. But I rode anyway and just tried to ride light. I had a pump but didn't want to take any more time than I'd already wasted. Probably a bad idea as a pinch flat would have shut me down for much longer than a few pump strokes would have. For the last year I've been carrying two tubes, a pump and C02 in races. Today was the first time where this strategy reminded why. Had I gotten another pinch flat I had another tube and a pump (as my C02 was dead) which would have let me finish.
DNF is always an option, but honestly at the level I race it's rarely about winning and finishing is sometimes all I got to hold onto.
Getting flat always takes the wind out of your sails. I just tried to get back on it and put it behind me and move forward. It was going to be a long hot hard day regardless. But my handling was really off and my head wasn't on straight after getting back on.
The downhill transitions into some really fun single twisty single track. But again, for some reason it just feels like hitting a wall. And many others felt the same way. It feels stifling and like you're working hard without moving any faster. In the middle there is this incredibly steep grunt climb with a diagonal log in the middle of the trail just for good measure to really put you in your place. This other log comes at a slight uphill after a corner took me out. I tried to ride over it and fell over. I'm surprised I didn't break my wrist. The wrist is still sore but not broken thankfully.
The single track goes on just a tad too long before we finally hit the fire road again. One more time up but this time only half way (the hardest half mind you) to the new connector trail. This is an incredibly sweet trail that is newly constructed. There are many rock bridge crossings and other features that looked like they took some serious man-hours to construct. It's a lot of big ring grinding but today the slight rises forced me to the middle more than I'd hoped.
The main bridge is still under construction but two kind folk were there to help you with your bike. I still managed to slip on the rocks walking down. This leads to a T junction. The sports go right to towards the finish while the experts turn left and climb back to the top. Oh I did want to go right.
Just gotta Man-up. Turn left and take the slow elevator up.
It was turning into a tough day. One thing about this course is that these transitions also provide some level of relief here and there. The start of the Hi-dee Ho climb here was actually a little bit of relief after the low cadence grind on the connector.
It is the kind of grade that sort of helps you get on it and find a rhythm. But it doesn't last long before it turns into a grind. For the first time in a long time I found myself in the granny granny. Usually this gear is bad news with my bike, It typically means that I'm going way to slow and the suspension doesn't feel right. But today it felt ok in the granny granny.
Once again, just concentrate on moving forward. The sun was beating down in some open areas. Just get to the top. I can't get home without getting to the top. The trail tops out at a fire road and we take this rolling unit to the next downhill. It's a big ring fest but once again I felt really slow when I should have felt fast. This road seems to go one much longer than you think it should before finally throwing you to the Buck's Downhill.
What I've been experiencing today was an ebb and flow of destruction followed by rejuvenation. Several times I found myself just tanked and ready to lay it down, but then the terrain would change and you'd get a slight recovery even though the perception is one of going slow like on this fire road, it actually was a little bit of recovery.
And there is something about Buck's Rut that is like a shot of caffeine. It just wakes me up and gets my head on straight and I start singing out loud the song that been going through my head. It turns into some seriously fun track and when you can see the paved road off through the trees you know you're almost home.
2:18 and finally hit the finish. The front runners did it in 1:52. W/o the flat and a what-if time bonus I am not sure I'd have broken 2:10. It was good enough for 3rd place vet expert and with my time from yesterday I was 2nd in the omnium. (Shhh. don't tell anyone but I'm not sure there were more than 2 in the vet ex omnium anyway.our secret)
It sure seemed a lot harder than what 2:18 usually feels like. My friend John (Who brought home a medal for his Sport performance!) was there with a cold Gatorade for me. Some soft tacos and some chips later and I felt a little better.
Though when I got up from my lawnchair I fell over into the back of my car, which was kind of funny.
If there is anyone that XC races in SW you gotta do this race. It's a spectacular course and there are some great people at the event. I just can't figure out why more people don't come out to this one.
notes to self-
-Pre-race meal wasn't as big as in before previous races.
-Sipped on e-drink right before race during warmup. Probably not good idea. induced a little reactive hypoglycemia
-vision, keeping head up went pretty well, but broke down sometimes. When it breaks down and I look down things go south very bad.
-cornering was definitely off. Lots of tension in the hands, grips/gloves felt really slippery