Hit the road around 6AM with teammates Rob Perazzo, Dana Napurano and Chris Brawley (Pooriggy). We crammed 4 bodies, 5 bikes and a ton miscellaneous shit onto and inside Rob's little Toyota.
Arrived at Cathedral Pines County Park about an hour before the start. We hooked up with Kirt and Dave Clapp at the gate so that we could all park and pit together. Shortly after, the Gozicks rolled up.
I don't see much value in warming up before long format races like these, so my pre race ritual became a bit more laid back than normal. I picked up my number, kitted up, ate and cruised around to check out the scene. Chatted it up with several friends and teammates. The vibe was good.
After the pre-race meeting, all 300 or so of us lined up for a mass start. I picked a spot towards the front and shot the shit with my buddy Dan Brodeen. As we were talking, the gun went off without warning, taking us completely by surprise. Unprepared for this, I leaped onto my saddle cyclocross-style and pedaled like a madman up the prologue. As with any race, I did my best to pick through the riffraff to secure a decent position towards the front, leading up to the singletrack.
There was a bit of congestion as we entered the woods but thats unavoidable considering the volume of riders. There were some hang-ups on the first series of hills but I managed to dodge & pass those folks and kept pedaling. I wasted no time jumping ahead of riders that were not moving fast enough and by about 25 minutes in, settled into a nice groove with a group of about 8 guys. We hammered out the remainder of the first lap which ended up being 51 minutes exactly.
I continued riding with this group for just about the entire second lap, always keeping someones wheel a couple feet in front of mine. Half way through lap 2, I spot my teammate Rob and he takes the lead for a while. we pushed the pace a little bit harder and banged out a 49 minute 2nd lap. I'm feeling pretty good at this point. While passing through the transition area, I pull up alongside Rob, we exchange pleasantries and I take the lead into the singletrack. Always a good feeling when you have a friend to ride with. Rob stayed relatively close behind and was never out of site. By now the group had mostly broken up into smaller pods of 2's and 3's as we continued to hammer through the sweet, flowy Long Island singletrack.
I kept a consistent effort, onwards through the next several laps but It wasn't before long that something evil began lurking within my legs. I have never experienced this before in a race, and that evil was the cramp monster! The cramping was relentless and hung around for the remainder of the race. The only way to suppress the pain was to pedal faster. Slowing down only caused my legs to lock up. At times I found myself shifting to an easier gear to spin a faster cadence. Nevertheless, I fought through it and did my best to maintain momentum. I still had plenty of gas in the tank.
I really had to force myself to eat every time I came around through the transition area. I didn't want to loose any time so my stops were 30 seconds or less. I mostly ate on the go, which was rather difficult with solid foods. Nearly choked on a cliff bar. That was ugly.
At the end of Lap 5, Chris (Pooriggy) catches up to Rob and I. We all pass through the transition area together. My cramps are at their climax right now. I downed almost an entire bottle of water, a banana and a package of chomp blocks. Chris Takes off and thats the last I see of him. Rob decides he doesn't want to ride anymore and bails right then and there. This is OK for him as the registration numbers were so low for his age group that at this point, he wins by default! I congratulate him and take off for lap 6.
For the next 2 laps, I find myself mostly riding solo with the occasional wheel sucker latching on. Dialed into autopilot mode, my bike rails the twisty turns with speed and finesse. I am quite literally in that special place called "the zone". James Brown's "Get on the Good Foot" is on repeat in my brain and my groove is unstoppable. By now many of the other racers are really beginning to fade, none of which were racers in my class. I 'm passing folks like like crazy. Well, passing as courteously as one could. We're all here to have a good time so I did my best not to be a jerk.
Towards the end of lap 7, I look down at my Garmin and see that I have passed the 6 hour mark, so an 8th lap isn't going to happen. I have a huge gap on the next rider in my field behead me so I ease up and cruise the last mile or so to the finish line. I end up wrapping it up with 7 laps at 6:11 and a 5th place finish. Not a bad day!
It wasn't until I dismounted that it hit me how beat up my body felt. It's the good kind of soreness though, the kind you earn!
I was pleased to learn that every single one of my teammates threw down strong finishes in their respective classes. Outstanding! Quite a few podiums were had for MTBNJ..
Rob Perazzo 1/1, Cat 1 Male 19 to 29 Laps 5, Time 4:18:26.9
Dana Napurano 3/5, Cat 2 Female 30 to 39 Laps 5, Time 5:51:12.6
Eric Capers 5/23, Cat 2 Male 30 to 39 Laps 7, Time 6:11:11.6
Chris Brawley 3/27 Singlespeed Open. Laps 7, Time 6:02:22.7
Chris Gozick 7/27 Singlespeed Open. Laps 7, Time 6:17:09.3
Kirt Mills 3/19 Male Duo Relay Laps 8, Time 6:38:19.5
David Clapp 3/19 Male Duo Relay Laps 8, Time 6:38:19.5