Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Levis / Trow 100

Wolf Run corner-Levis Mound Trail.

A mountain bike racer's nightmare? Rain on race day.  An endurance mountain bike racers nightmare? Record setting rain on race day.  I guess once it starts raining during a race, the amount that falls from the sky really doesn't matter-your bike will never sound the same, the trail will be forever changed and instead of racing, it become survival and all about finishing. 
The "Levis / Trow (mound) 100" was slated to begin bright and early at 8:00am.  The format is 100 miles, or up to 12 hours, 6 hours and 3 hour races.  Mother nature had other ideas.  It had started raining lightly at 5:00am, and ebbed and flowed (ha) until close to race time, when it turned into a deluge.  The parking lot at the Levis Mound Trail head was a river of water, the sky lit up by lightning and racers huddled together in the chalet, under tarps and hunkered down inside tents, hoping for any kind of delay.  No racer willingly wants to race in the rain, but registration fees have been paid, gas burned to travel here and race series points on the line just to finish.  The decision to delay the shotgun start was sound, maybe the downpour would ease and conditions improve.  An hour later, racers were let loose to begin their hundred miles of off road.....what could be called "racing" but today, just finishing would be a win.  The rain moved back in and thunder clapped so riders were pulled from the course as they completed their first lap.  At that point-the water didn't matter, the racers and their bikes were all of the same color and disposition-neither worked well.  The sky dried out somewhat, so the race was on once again.  The shorter races started later in the day and finally everyone was on the soggy course.

One respbit, was a just completed new trail- "Wolf Run," a mile plus singletrack bringing the riders back Trow Mound  toward the main trail system at Levis.  It may have not been "burned" in yet, but it was dry and rider after rider commented on how nice it was to pedal that section for relief.  As a trail builder here, having rain and hundreds of bikers on a new trail, is a perfect way to break in a new singletrack, so inside, I was happy about the conditions.  But, also as a trail builder, I knew we would have a lot of trail work to do on our wetter sections of trail-I am sure to see pools of water when I survey the race aftermath.  Luckily, The Levis Mound system of trails dry very quickly and so much of it is located on highground, so the rain will leave little impact.

As a retired racer, I can honestly say, I really didn't mind sitting on the other side of the race flagging cheering the racers on.  Most were silent (except for their gritty grinding drivetrain) as they passed by.  Some said "thanks" as they hit the dirt corner, others grunted "which way?" as they sqinted thru mud spattered eye lids, while another was heard whistling as he rode out of sight, my daughter and I wondering if we really just heard that.  I guess some still enjoy getting dirty.

The day was growing later, so as a former race director of many years, I just needed to check into the race headquarters and see who was surviving and how the day went for the organizers.  Mixed reviews to be sure, and with a call of a injured woman racer on course,  someone was sent out to collect her, and our conversation was cut short.  It wasn't even close to an ideal day, but this is mountain bike racing and it is all about testing oneself, not only over any terrain, but also in any kind of element.  Today was be a good test for both.

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