Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winter Challenge 9 - The year of the Dragon

Another one for the record books. The 9th edition of the Winter Challenge takes place in this 'the year of the dragon'. It was a small field, with about 30 peeps lining up for the off-road triathlon. This event is an awesome event, and I highly encourage anyone to come out and try it. If nothing else, you can hook up with a friend and do it as a team.

I lined up with this field and in stiff winds, the race began. It starts with a 7 mile run, and I went off at my own pace. I was able to keep the peeps in front of me in my sights for about 3 miles before I lost sight of them. The course was pretty well marked, but it did require you to be vigilant.

At about mile 4 or 4.5, the markings were a little thin, so I stayed on what I thought was the proper course. I ran for about a 1/4 mile before I see a group, led by none other than the race director Chris Williams coming back my way. Of course, if the race director is off course, and is running the other direction, I'm going to follow.

Sure enough, the only likely spot where the trail might have turned, and that I had passed, was the correct path. I ended up running about a 1/3 mile extra with this little detour. No problem, except it now bunched up about a half dozen of us. That was going to make it pretty interesting if we stayed together till the transition to the boats.

A group of 4 of us went off the front of this little pack, and we ran pretty close together until about a mile from the transition when two of the guys broke away from the other two of us. At the transition, I picked up my camelback and my PFD for the paddle portion, then walked to my boat. A major concern is coming off that 7 mile run and then sitting in your boat for an hour or more.

The winds were still pretty stiff when I got into my boat. The guy right in front of me fell out of this boat and I had to hand him his paddle as I got started in the boat leg. The boat leg started into this stiff wind, and it was pretty rough. Thankfully, my boat has a skeg which really helps me track straight when winds are whipping me around.

Except for the wind, the boat leg was relatively un-eventful. The wind was a handful, but I ended up just holding my own. I was passed by a few boaters in faster, sleeker boats, but I think I passed a boat or two. I was a little surprised as usually I make up some spots on the boat. Again, this was a pretty strong field, despite its size.

When I came out of the water, as usual, the legs were not very cooperative and I had to walk to the transition area. Had a little trouble untying the double knot in my shoes, especially with hands that were a little cold.

Made the transition and started on the bike. Immediately, I passed two guys right out of transition. I was feeling pretty good, and tried to lay down a nice pace. Drawing now on my extensive road riding experience, I began to settle into a hard pace.

I had done some maintenance on my bike, but not quite enough. In fact, I failed to lubricate the derailleurs (esp the rear) and I did not test ride the bike after installing the new chain. That bad boy was ghost shifting all over the place. I would shift once, and it would take two gears. I would shift the other way and I would get one gear back. It was pretty bad, so I did my best to find a gear I could work with and keep it there.

That seldom works, because the nature of mountain biking is such that you're constantly using the gears available to you. I passed another guy in a wide spot on the trail, and kept messing with the shifting. By the time I looped back through the start finish area, I was kind of figuring out how to deal with it. Certainly, I was playing with the cable tension / slack to see if I could make an improvement.

Once past the start / finish area, you have about 8 miles of riding remaining. About a mile in, I passed a 4th rider who was moving surprisingly slow. He looked ok, so I left him behind. I was pushing about as hard as I thought I could sustain as the trail opened back up on a doubletrack and crossed the highway.

Across the highway, the course gets more hilly and more singletrack. I was surprised when I passed a 5th rider in a section of uphill single track. Not long after that, I was passed by this guy on a Niner who was really flying. I had nothing for him.

I nearly got re-passed when I thought I missed a turn and had to stop for a second. Thankfully, I was able to get back up and going before the guy got close enough to me. I passed a 6th rider as I was heading back towards the highway crossing. He was a bit frustrated and asked me if I had a bike tool. Honestly, I don't know what is in my pack (being that I have not ridden this bike in ages), but knowing me, there probably is a small tool in there. I didn't stop.

Once across the highway, it is a fast doubletrack back to the finish line. I pushed the hardest gear I could get while staying in the middle ring. I was very hesitant to shift the front derailleur based on the troubles I'd had with the rear.

The last obstacle is a hay bale that you have to navigate. You can jump it, if you have the skills, you can do a cyclocross dismount and leap over it while carrying your bike, or you can go around and take a time penalty. I did the cyclocross thing and felt just fine about that.

I crossed the line in 2h58m and ?? seconds. The official timing is actually 15 minutes longer as I think they started the race clock at 1030, while we didn't start the race until 1045.

It was a fun race, and I think I'm going back to race in the Santee Challenge in March.

Thanks to Chris and his crew for putting together a great event!


  1. Nice job, JD. That's a great finish...especially considering the shifting issues.

  2. Thanks James. That race is a lot of fun. There's another that I'll do in March at Santee State Park. I think there is one in Clemson in June that I'll do as well.


Don't be shy! I'm interested to hear your comments or experiences.
NOTE: I have switched on the comment moderation because I have been getting a number of spam comments lately. Be patient, I'll post it up as soon as I can! Thx JD