So we heard about this race up in Traverse City called “Traverse City Trail Fest” and a couple members of the team said “Lets do it!” Description was 25 or 40 miles of some of the best single track in Traverse City area. Now, a couple days after the event, I would agree!
So, leading up to the race weekend there was 100% chance of thunderstorms and rain. This was very discouraging, but like any forecast in Michigan, wait until minute before to be sure. So we packed up, set up camp in Ranch Rudolph, did packet pickup, like any other race. Then we went to bed watching a weird swirly of rain clouds on the radar all over north Michigan. 4am we were woken up with heavy pounding rain on the RV. At the point I was telling myself, no need to wreck equipment, the forecast was correct, sit this one out. 7am a buddy Chip calls “Radar is clear, lets do this!” I won’t lie, I was taken back since my mindset shifted to sitting back and relaxing in the rain storm. Crap… I guess switch back to race mind set, LOL. Sure enough, cloudy but no rain. The rain that did come was well needed for the sandy parts of the trail.
Race warm-up. We have a pretty specific warm-up we do that we learned from our coaching with Lauri Brokmiller of Brockmiller Elite Endurance. A friend of mine Chip, has been working real hard on his training and this was his day to shine! It was fun warming up with him and telling him “Don’t wait around for me, do your thing”. Warm-up is fun, you see other racers you know getting ready, some more serious then others. Overall, everyone is pumped up and in great moods. Nerves are heightened with expectations. Is it going to rain? How hard to I push and when? Am I prepared? All the things that keep us racing!
Start line. We rolled up about perfect timing 8:45am to listen to the pre-race meeting. Not many races have pre-race meetings, but it was cool to listen to the hows and whys of this race. The race is predominantly put on by NMBA in an effort to further push for outstanding trails in the area! The race promoter and most volunteers are all HUGE promoters of growing the trail system up there. All of that took my mind off the race for a minute. Then 5, 4, 3, 2, Go!
Start of the race. This race starts up a gravel hill that wakes up the legs quick! Heading up the hill I was torn between the idea of hammer up to beat others to single track or just below hammer and same the matches. Matches are max effort moments and most racers only have a so many matches to use per race. I remember thinking I am climbing this pretty descent and not really passing many… LOL The next few miles were wide enough to make passes and filter out some. Surprisingly I was a little winded just hanging on the back of a few riders ahead. I guess I stay here and try and make moves in single track.
Fresh cut trail. OH MAN, I knew it was coming but I forgot how much my hard tail bike and 220 body didn’t like fresh cut trail. 6-8 miles of the first parts of the race are newer single track cuts. I LOVE single track but this was not highway single track I can use lots of power on, this was, try and find a rhythm to even get half of your pedal strokes in… I am not knocking the course saying this, I am saying it adding some grit to it. Instead of a hard tail highway single track, this was, get ready to rattle your whole body endurance. In a weird way, I was smiling and enjoying the challenge. I remember looking down at my garmin for the 1st time and its said 8 miles. I swore it felt like 18! I was like OH BOY, time to suck it up sally. Many other times over the next 10 miles I would look down and my handle bars were shaking to much, along with my head, and couldn’t even get a reading on mileage.
Mid ish race. Seems like mid race I found myself on some pretty nice single track that was packed in and felt my average speed about double. Once again I started smiling saying HERE WE GO! Started to get in my groove finally.
Chip?? Somewhere around mid race my good buddy and teammate was on the side of the trail. “Chip what’s up?” I start to slow down. He had his bike upside down. “Don’t worry Mark, just go for it, derailleur stick issue” I was shocked? This also added a little pep to my step. He will be chasing me now! I did look over my shoulder a few times wondering when I would see him again. At one point, I heard someone pull up behind me “Chip is that you?” Guy was like “What?” I said “Chip?” He said no “Brian (maybe Ryan) nice to meet you!” LOL I said ” Oh, I thought for sure you were my buddy catching back up” We laughed. I let him by, he was riding faster.
Traverse women riders.. I forgot to mention earlier in the race there were women all over this race, passing me, me passing them, back and forth. I must give Northern Michigan Traverse City area kudos. I think they really pour into women riders to get out and be competitive. Every time I am in that area seems to be double the amount of women evolved in the racing scene! Funny story about mid race. I think I had two very competitive gals racing for position and I was in between. The gal behind says “Can you get me up to that girl up there” Tight single track and maybe drafting help. I said “Yeah” pushed pretty good, got up to her and started to move over so they could race. I said “Go for it!” She said I am trying, I think we were both spent just catching the other racer. I felt like a Tour De France team racer bringing her up to leader. LOL. Great work Traverse City race gals, you guys were hauling!
Near the end of the race. I was getting very fatigue, kept dreaming about full suspension bike I am shopping for. The fatigue was different then any other race I have done. Its was full body and mostly my back.
I finished 7th in my age group. This wasn’t bad consider I brought a knife to a gun fight and normally I race a Clydesdale division. That means guys 200 lbs plus. Those skinny dudes are hard to keep up with.
I will be back to this race! I will say, if you love single track like I do, give this race a shot! Don’t under estimate the little elevation for the rough, tough, grit of this race.
Congrats team member Carlos Delgado for winning your division!