I had wanted to ride something else other than the standard Sunday Shirlington ride this weekend. The Pedalers had some really interesting rides lined up for Saturday, but I had promised the wife that we would go and revisit one of the things she enjoyed doing with my Mom, that being to visit the Maryland Christmas Show out in Fredrick, MD. She thought the experience was underwhelming; the event over 12 years ago was larger, grander, with a more diverse craft show experience. This years had maybe 150 booths, about a quarter of the size back before we moved to Texas. My wife’s quote “It took me and your mother all day to walk around and see all the exhibitors, while today we did it in just over an hour.” The high point was lunch at the Black Hog BBQ spot we stopped for lunch. Located in what seems to have been a muffler repair place (meaning the seating is limited), the BBQ was pretty good. My daughter and I enjoyed the Pork Shoulder, and the wife liked the sausage link, but we both agreed the brisket wasn’t up to our Rudy’s standard, and the Arkansas BBQ was not as tender as it should have been. The potato salad and cole slaw were really good. If we ever find ourselves back in Fredneck, we’d definitely stop back by.
So Sunday, my pickings were slim. I had stumbled across a race on Active.com callled the Felix 24. The description was “A 24 mile race to see what it feels like to bike the distance Felix fell.” Figured it would be a trails course, as it started at Lake Accotink Park. Plus, with the subject matter, I figured it would be more of a “Lets get a bunch of guys together and ride fast” rather than a competitive race; I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. And it was to benefit Gearin’ Up Bicycles, a non-profit teaching bicycle safety and mechanic skills to underserved kids in Washington DC.
I showed up at 10:40am, figuring I’d have to rush to get registered and ready. Riding up the trail, following the Pedal Collective signs, I realized it was going to be a bit more competitive than I thought. Looking around, I realized that I was the mark and was going to finish last. But I figured It’d be a good day to ride hard and 24 miles wouldn’t be that bad, and it’d be good work on Rule #5.
On the competitive side, the winner (who supposedly drove in from Roanoke for the race) was warming up in the parking lot on a set of rollers. Others did a lot of warming up, riding back and forth before the race. Me, I just stood there, hoping someone else worse than me would show up.
The big problem was that it was apparent that Rule #87 wasn’t going to apply, as 11am quickly flew by, and we didn’t kick off until 11:40.
Le Mans style start (run to the bike), and quickly get passed and dropped. Oh well. Figured the only way I was going to not finish last was to pedal hard, keep a good pace, and home some of the guys who brought their road bikes would flat. Early on I was anywhere from 100 meters to 300 meters behind the main peleton, but as we hit the 2 mile mark, I was within sight of maybe 2 people. Then came the first stream crossing. Quickly followed by a second, which then led up into Wakefield Park.
I quickly glimpsed a couple guys out of the corner of my eye and realized I was on the wrong path! So I turned and followed them, down what I found out too late was indeed the wrong turn. So a mile and 7 minutes later, I find myself back on the main trail. Pedal like a madman, pass a couple of road bike guys (Ding!) and almost make another wrong turn. 5 miles later I finally see the first place rider on his way back from the turn around. So the wrong turn really cost me about 12 minutes behind the leader, 9 minutes behind the pack.
Back thru Wakefield park, I made another wrong left turn, adding another 6 minutes in arrears. But unlike what 8 other folks did, I kept going and eventually finished the race, probably 20 minutes behind. Seems that two of the road bikers did have flats, and two others made even worse turn decisions than I did. But indeed, I did finish, and did not place “last”.
The course was poorly marked, and the description “The course is around Accotink Lake and Fairfax Cross County Trail.. The race can be done on any bike, from road to mountain, hybrid, or single speed” was very misleading if you’ve never been out on those trails. There were several sections of dual track road that were like riding on rocks the size of your fist, specifically just after riding under Braddock Road, and the half mile of trail before getting onto Accotink Trail. I understand that the guys who brought road bikes were understandably upset about that. There was also nothing said about the stream crossings, so a lot of the logistics of the race were sprung on the participants prior to the start.
I think that the racers would have been better served by a bit more planning and thought by the Pedal Collective organizer, and race numbers would have been better than collecting names.
So, on a trail that was 40% pavement/cement, 30% crushed limestone covered by leaves, and 30% freaking large rocks and granite stones with 8 total stream crossings, I came away with frozen toes (which thawed out by the end of the awards ceremony), and a firm ass kicking. Less weight to move on my bike means less watts needed to be generated. Hurray for my first race ever!