Jay Thomas 6 Hours of Cranky Monkey
6 Hours of Cranky Monkey Mountain Bike Race Recap
Wow, what a day! Jim Harman and the crew at EX2 Adventures really know how to do it and do it well. After a few years of negotiating to get a race at Rosaryville Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, they were able to get the “thumbs up” and scheduled the race for Saturday, March 23rd.
The week leading up to the race meant training as usual. Despite the desire to rest I felt the need to keep things going as I have another solo endurance race on April 13th (Leesburg Bakers Dozen – 13 Hour Race). Spin, yoga, core, and indoor trainer were on tap and have been my “go to” routine during this years training season. Feeling good come Thursday my mind started to think of what I would have the night before the race. I quickly messaged my buddy Bart who races in the North Carolina circuit as well as other states along the East Coast. When in doubt have some pasta! Who am I to say no to that. My typical diet consists of protein, veggies and light carbs. Given the length of the race and solo effort I felt carbo loading the night before the race was acceptable. Bite to eat, a movie and in bed as early as possible as 6am would come soon enough.
The night before any race I get the “jitters.” Surprisingly enough I actually had a decent nights sleep and woke up 10 minutes before the alarm. Up, dressed and in the kitchen packing the cooler and having some coffee anxious to get on the road. Nela, my wife is a Saint! She’s so supportive and having her there in the pits always helps me mentally knowing that she is there. She too was up and ready to go, coffee in hand. In the car and on the road at 7:00am meant our ETA would be 8am with plenty of time to get setup, prep and attend the pre-race announcements.
Thanks to my buddy Brian having to setup the tent/table was already done as he drove down the night before, camped and snagged a primo spot for our group of racers. Nela and I arrived a little after 8am and were able to get things setup rather quickly. Wondered around, saw friends and chatted about how it was the first big race for everyone and how everyone felt. It was clear we all were excited about the course and ready to get started. Registered, got my packet, number, and headed to the main area for the pre-race briefing. Rules, course descriptions, sponsors recognition, etc., etc. Headed back to our pit area, got dressed and hopped on the bike to do some warm ups. Typically I am always asking Nela “what time is it” every 5 minutes but not today. I was surprisingly in a relaxed mood despite this being my first solo endurance race.
After warm ups, final intake of food and water Brian, Mark and I headed up to the start area. About half way there I noticed my back tire was a bit flat. Given how close we were to race start I was unable to head back to put more air in my rear tire – oh well! We chose to post up in the middle of the group which was just fine with me. Five minutes to go I talked to another fellow single speeder about gearing. He had some good insight on the gearing I ended up choosing (32X20) but learned that I might run into over working the legs due to the style course and the likelihood that I would be spinning a lot to keep momentum.
The countdown began….4 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute and the blown horn sounds! The ringing of cowbells and “Woo-Hoo’s” filled the air and put a smile on my face. Then, “rider down, rider down!” One of the racers had gotten caught up with another and quickly went down. Everyone went to the right and left giving them ample room to get up and get rolling. Into the field we went, through the time area and finally into the woods and single track. The first few miles were tight w/ clusters of riders getting bogged down and “bottle necked” which is normal when you have a few hundred racers at one time.
Lap 1, as expected, consisted of groups of racers, fast, slow, fast slow tempos and me learning the course. I knew it was a fast, rolling course that was just about 11 miles long. Not knowing exactly the type of climbs I would encounter made me a bit nervous. Fortunately there weren’t too many steeps…only one at Mile 5 that was fairly steep that allowed me to get up and out of the saddle and really mash the pedals. Overall Rosaryville is a smooth, twisty and rolling course. Not a lot of technical features but Miles 7-9 had some logs, table-tops, drops, and roots which I quickly told myself I would need to save energy for, including the climb at Mile 5. After passing the last aid station I felt really good and was mentally preparing to come into the pits. Out of the woods and into the field I made my way to the time area, dismounted, walked through the timing area, and down to our pit area. Feeling good and the need to hit the porta john (Too Much Info?) Nela had a bottle ready to go. I nibbled on some small bites and hopped back on the bike to head out for my second lap.
Lap 2, wow, this was a reality check. Both mentally and physically I was feeling fine. Just past mile marker 2 I came across my buddy Mark who was standing at a creek “drop-in” and wasn’t looking happy. “You all right, what happened” I yelled. “Blew a tire” Mark said. Definitely a bummer that early in the race. As I approached the climb on Mile 5 I started preparing. About halfway up I started feeling a slight twitch and immediately eased of and into a lighter cadence. “Uh-Oh” I thought. Up the hill and back into the woods the twitch turned into a light spasm. I quickly hopped off the bike to stretch. Throughout Lap 2 I battled with twitching and determining when to go hard and to ease off. Back into the pits I take the same approach and not thinking of the amount of liquids I was consuming Nela felt I was drinking too much. More small bites (added banana), drank some Acai juice, a refill of the water bottle, and back out I went.
Lap 3, the cramping on the previous lap really got to me. Was it something I ate, didn’t eat or drink prior to race start???? Easing into my pace and finally on my own and alone in the woods I sat into a zen like state and just kept pedaling and tackling each mile/section confidently. Did I continue to worry about when/where I might cramp, yes but thankfully it was not as bad as what I experienced in Lap 2. After my first 2 laps I was starting to remember the course, where I was and improving my flow. Climbs and obstacles were imbedded in my brain so the need to anticipate when/where they were was not an issue. As I passed the aid stations I decided to partake and consume small cups of Gatorade. Yep, I was going against the better judgement of Nela and continued to consume mass amounts of liquids. Back to the field and timing area I found myself back at our pit area needing to pee…..again! Should have taken Nela’s advice.
Lap 4, here we go, getting towards the end and my original 6 lap goal was definitely not going to happen but was okay with it. I noticed my upper back and neck were starting to hurt and began to shift my mind on other things to push away the slight pain I was experiencing. Was I ready to be done? Almost, but knew I still had 20ish miles to go. Passing, being passed, seeing other riders sidelined due to mechanical issues only and thankfully not physical issues was a sigh of relief. There were only 14 Single Speed Solo racers and didn’t see much of them given the length of each lap and the total amount of racers. When being passed by duo and trio teams I started getting a bit “snooty.” I assure you this is not normal for me…I think. Trying to suppress my “stinkin’ thinkin'” I told myself to “get over it.” At this point the course was the course and where I was really didn’t matter – all I knew is that I was approaching Lap 5. Out of the woods, into the woods and into the timing area I go! If you were wondering if I needed to make a quick stop at the porta john again…yes, I did. Must have “broke the seal” too early! Last refill and back out I go for my final Lap.
Lap 5 was definitely the most fun. Having navigated the course for 44 miles and just under 5 hours the need to think was low if any at all for me. Knowing where I was, anticipating the climbs and preparing for the technical areas was a breeze. No cramping and had a really nice pace. Got some positive “shout-outs” from fellow riders of encouragement that really helped me end strong. Did my mind wonder, oh yeah! At one point my thoughts were of how much I loved the Fall season and how it was the best time of year to ride. This quickly caused me to feel as if I was in the month of October given the leaves on the ground, yaddi, yaddi, yadda. That made me “LOL” and knew I must have been doing something right as slight fatigue was setting it. After each mile, climb, obstacle, and pedal stroke I got closer and closer to the end of the course. Mile 8, 9, 10 and finally out into the field and heading towards the finish – I was a happy camper and ready to be done.
Since this was my first solo endurance race a lot of things had been going through my mind prior to the event. Was I ready physically and mentally? Would I be prepared if I had a flat? What was the course like? All of my thoughts came and went but were unable to be put to rest until the day of the race. Overall I felt really good at my performance and placement – 7th out of 14 racers in my category. Rosaryville was the perfect venue for this kind of race and am so thankful to have registered and finished without any major issues. Will I be racing there next year??? Oh Yeah!
A big thank you to my loving and always supportive wife, Nela. Just having you there puts my mind at ease and appreciate you spending the day and “manning” the pit area for me.
I would also like to thank Jim Harman, EX2 Adventures, all Volunteers and race sponsors:
EX2 Adventures – www.ex2adventures.com
The Bike Lane – www.thebikelane.com
SEAVS (Exotic Animal Veterinary Services) – www.seavs.com/
Lucky Foot (Premier Walking & Running Shoe Store) – www.luckyfoot.com/
POW HER (Chiropractic & Wellness Center) – www.powherchiro.com
Drink More Water – www.drinkmorewater.com/