Last Saturday (5/8), I raced the 6 Hour Grind at the Greenway, an endurance mountain bike race at the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, SC. Not wanting to take on the entire 6 hours alone, I teamed up with Dan Kimball as a two-man team, referred to as a “Duo”. Since neither of us are on the same “team” (such as MelRad or TrySports), we decided to opt for a humorous team name of “Tango & Cash”. If you’re my age, you may recall the cheesy, 80’s flick of the same name that, although cheesy, was still a hoot to watch. Dan came up with the name which both Alba and I decided was perfect. If you don’t think so, then I’m blaming it on Dan.
Before I get into the race, let me just throw a shout-out to Neal Boyd. If you are anywhere remotely close to Charlotte, North Carolina, and you haven’t attended an event put on by Neal, you are truly missing out. His events are top-notch, well organized and all-around fun. For more info, hit his website at www.CharlotteMtnBike.com.
Back to the race. Dan and I showed up early (well, he did, I was late in classic Marcus-fashion) and we setup our TrySports camp among all of the other tents We then proceeded to work on my broken bike. I know, I know, I should have done all of that stuff waaaaaay before race morning, but due to a long days at work and breaking a derailleur the day before, it was unavoidable. All-in-all, we changed two tires, put on a derailleur, chain and new brake pads. Note: we did not touch the shifters. We finished everything just in time to get to the race briefing. Unfortunately, for me, there was no time for a warm up.
We had previously decided that I would ride the first lap. This was primarily due to the fact that we were going to shoot for a total of 8 laps during the 6 hours and that would put Dan in position for riding the last lap. I had a prior commitment to be somewhere at 6pm, so by leaving the race before it was over would allow me to get to where I needed to be on time.
So off to the start line. I lined up in front and off to one side of the fast guys. I was shooting for a sprint start with the mindset of getting to the single-lane swinging bridge before it became clogged with traffic. Neal had designed a method to spread the crowd out before getting to the bridge, but even with his efforts to help mitigate the problem, it still happens. There’s just no way to avoid it, although he does a great job reducing it. We started about a half mile or so down a gravel road (which was part of the course) and headed back towards the finish line. Once we went across the finish line, our first lap started. As I started the small hill climb towards the finish line, I attempted to downshift one gear. In doing so, I pushed the lever of my rear shifter and NOTHING HAPPENED. There wasn’t even any pressure. “What the heck!”, I thought. I fumbled a bit and decided just to push through it with a tougher gear, knowing I had a long ride down the gravel road where I could further investigate.
We went across the finish line, starting the first lap and riding by all of the “pit stops” (a sea of popup tents and spectators). Riding by our tent, I spotted Dan, my teammate, and yelled, “I don’t have any rear shifting!”. For a split second I thought of pitting right there. I didn’t for two reasons. First, he only spot you are supposed to pit was near the finish line. Second, if I would have, I’m sure I would have been plowed over by the slew of people behind me.
So as we dove back onto the gravel road headed for the trail, I began my investigation. Push shifter: nothing happened. Check cable tension: cable’s tight, not a broken cable. Visual on derailleur: looked fine. The thoughts began to run through my head. I knew I didn’t have any tough climbs anytime soon, so should I stop and fix it or just deal with 3 gears (shift with the three up front). Knowing that in order for us to do well, we would have to do 8 laps. Time calculation dictated that we would have to turn 45 min laps (or faster) to make it 8 laps and that would be tough enough with shifting problems at the beginning of the race. This meant that every minute counted. If I stopped to attempt a fix, it could have been futile if I didn’t have the necessary tool to fix it or if I couldn’t figure out the problem. So knowing that stopping could be fruitless, I decided to press on with three gears and got to the swinging bridge without having to wait on anyone (I would later hear that a bottleneck did eventually happen).
The first lap was tough, especially with the Sugar Island loop. Normally this is a very fun section of the Greenway, but with 3 gears and 2 busted ribs, it ended up being not that much fun. Trying not to lose too much time, I really tried hard to push the lap. I wasn’t really sure if pushing my legs this hard on the first lap would hurt me later in the race, but I didn’t see it as a choice. On one of the longer switchback climbs of Sugar Island, my ribs reminded me that they still weren’t fully mended. As long as I didn’t breathe extremely deeply or cough, I could mitigate most of the pain.
I came in at the end of the first lap at 50:31, not too shabby considering the circumstances. However, it meant that we started our race down 5:31 which we would have to make up somehow. During our quick transition, Dan stated that we could share his bike if I couldn’t get mine fixed. Seeing as we are both the same size AND I somehow talked him into buying the very bike that I should be getting soon (Specialized Epic Expert Carbon), I was thrilled to be able to race on the bike I am so eagerly awaiting (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).
While Dan was out for lap # 2, I managed to fix my shifter which ended up being something very minor that I could have fixed on the trail. However, it took me around 5 or 10 minutes to figure out, so I’m not sure if spending that time on the trail would have been a wash or not. Dan came in lap #2 at 47:01 and I took off on my Gary Fisher.
The rest of the race went pretty close to what we had planned. We alternated laps, giving us a chance to recover somewhat. We later discussed if that was the best strategy or if we should have done 2 laps before switching off (or some other weird combo). Alba stopped out to see how our race was going and to snap off a few pics of us. She also brought us out a couple of bags of ice which we were both desperately wanting. To try and mitigate swelling of my ribs, I’d stuff my rear jersey pockets with ice before taking off. Not only did it help the ribs, but it also cooled me off overall.
Our lap times ended up looking like this:
1. Marcus 50:31
2. Dan 47:01
3. Marcus 47:51
4. Dan 49:27
5. Marcus 49:01
6. Dan 50:12
7. Marcus 53:26
As you can see, we never seemed to make up for the 5 minutes that I lost in the first lap. Matter of fact, by the time we got to lap 7, I was so spent that my time dropped significantly. We both think that it had a lot to do with how hard I pushed through the first lap with only 3 gears. Our final standings ended up being:
Duo Male Team: 8th out of 32 teams
Overall: 17th out of 171
All-in-all, we both had an absolute blast at this event! Not bad results for a couple of triathlon geeks who have never done pure endurance mountain bike racing before. :-)
Be a Warrior!