Today is Saturday, last Saturday i raced Single Speed Kansas City at Swope Park.
It was a mountain bike race. It was single speed only. It was awesome.
I often joke about how great it would be if races only offered one category, the human category. This was that race.
Single speed is the future.
So, a little back story. Brian C gave me the low down on SSKC during our Lake Wilson trip back in March, It took me a while to come around since i didnt have a single speed but ultimately I was powerless to resist.
A huge party right in my backyard with a race over my favorite trails, how could you say no?
And i do mean party. Single Speed people know how to get down and Brian and his people did a great job giving them the optimal environment.
For me this was a race first and party second. I trained as well as possible but when the big day arrived i knew i was under prepared. And not just in terms of what my original goals were. I was under prepared for just finishing. Up until a week before the start I was assuming this race would be like a typical xc race and take about 2 hours. Then Britton mentioned that it's going to be 27 miles, which is about 3 full laps at Swope.
3 full laps!!!
Thats a lot.
Swope is no joke.
(side note: Lots of out of towers showed up and i got a real kick listening to them talk about how hard the trail was. I passed several people muttering a different variation of the same theme, "rocks").
Now with the exception of a 1 hr ride two days prior I hadn't ridden Swope all year, nor had i done any rides even remotely resembling the effort it would take to finish this race. However i knew i was in okay shape for a slow dad who doesn't race much anymore and that finishing was possible... And that it would destroy me.
I showed up plenty early and with plenty of supplies. Britton may be able to finish 3rd on one bottle and a few randomly inhaled bugs but i need food and water.
One big factor working in my favor was that I've spent countless hours at swope. Unfortunately I tend to ride the same direction every single time and as I soon discovered 75% of the race was run going the opposite direction.
Still, by the time i lined up i was feeling pretty comfortable with what lay ahead.
Comfortable enough to line up almost in the front row. Call it row 1.5, and way off to the side.
The start was perfect for me. A long and steep road. At the top we did a 180 onto the singletrack and then proceeded to tackle a brutally rocky section which just so happens to be one of the few sections i never ride.
But I started good. the guy behind me said i better start fast and I'm glad he did because that was my plan and He forced me to stick to it. Looking at the massive amount of photos from the race (just another reason this race was awesome, everyone was taking pictures and they're all on the Facebook page. Check it out) i hit the single track in about 17th. Duff went in right ahead of me and Jon J right behind.
The next 10 minutes were brutal. Gnarly trail followed by an uphill followed by the pressure of maybe 100 racers behind me. Except nobody was right behind me. Sure there were a few folks but the opening 15 minutes were so hard that the race spread out immediately. with over 100 racers i was expecting a lot more chaos. Props to the course designers for setting it up like that.
Plus a substantial number of racers were probably more focused on the party than the race. I can't sit here and pretend that I was competing against 100 other motivates racers.
The rest of the day was an Odyssey.
Random things seemed to pop up around every bend. First it was a guy in a speedo bent over messing with his chain. Then i was being serenaded by Brett S and his Dobro / percussion band. They also offered me beer, wine and cigarettes. Later i passed an unmanned stereo playing Cumberland Blues by the Grateful Dead. A dude in a red tutu passed me while i went back and forth with Prince and Lt. Dangel from Reno 911. Dangel beat me but i beat Prince.
Upon completing my first lap i took a beer hand up and the dude knew my name and his voice was familiar. It was Jones. Later i grabbed a whisky shot from the wine and cheese table and that came moments after i grabbed my bottle of coke. Sometimes things just fall into place.
At some point I heard what sounded like thunder and then sure enough a cool breeze blew thru along with a few sprinkles. The temp dipped significantly but the gods continued to smile upon this race and spared us any significant rain.
Later i took a shot of red wine, it tasted better than expected.
I rode strong for two laps but eventually the distance got to me. I was hoping that my easy gear (30x20 on a 29r) would be a difference maker on the 3rd lap but in the end all it did was delay the inevitable. By the time i was halfway thru that last lap i was completely drained and cramping badly. I had done everything i could during the race, food, water, electrolytes, whisky, but it didn't matter.
Swope is a beast.
My hands cramped up the worst. The legs actually held up pretty well but i have dainty hands and they were not happy. At it's worst i was standing on the trail taking deep breaths with my hands in prayer position.
I walked a lot on that last lap.
But i finished!
And i must say it was an extremely rewarding feeling.
It's been a while since i was that drained after a race. And banged up too. I had two hard falls and I'm still sore a week later.
Before i forget, i need to give big thanks to Britton and Zach at Volker Bicycles. Britton turned my bike into a single speed and was patient as i tried out several gear ratios and Zach set up my tires the day before the race, going so far as to remove the massive amounts of dried stanz from the wheels. The bike worked great and then to top that these two went and finished 3rd and 4th in the race!
The biggest thanks need to go to Brian and his pal Mike. As I understand it they were the brains behind everything. I'm sure they had tons of help so to whoever deserves it... THANK YOU!!!!
This event was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
If Kansas City gets lucky twice and SSKC happens next year I'm definitely going... and this time I'll be dressing up.