EX2 XTERRA — Rocky Gap State Park, Maryland — July 12, 2009


You always remember your first, right?

Thursday evening I spent waaay too much time playing with dryer lint, petroleum jelly, corrugated cardboard, cotton balls, carboard egg cartons and wax, and so I was behind in getting stuff ready for packing the car on the Friday right before the weekend for the race.  (I was making firestarters.)  Friday morning arrived.  Quick gym journey.  Back home and showered, and Amanda showed up.  Off to the grocery store where priority #1 was smores goods.  Returned home and efficiently made sandwiches for the drive.  Packed the car, and on the road about 1hr later than I wanted to.

During the time we were packing, I went to print directions.  I initially was going to go out the PA Turnpike, because that’s how Google Maps was taking one from PHL.  However, for a reason that I can’t recall now, I changed the starting destination to the house here in Jersey, and Gmaps altered the route by taking us south first towards Baltimore.  The new route was supposed to be a 20minute time savings.  20mins?  Ok.  Substantial enough.  Well, it turned out to be the wrong decision — going south on I95 that is.  I95 wasn’t really the problem.  There was some traffic that was stop and go, but nothing intolerable — as tolerable as any kind of traffic can be anyhow.  The problem was I70 West, specifically the section around Fredericksburg, MD.  It’s ridiculous.  There’s no construction, but the highway actually goes from 3 lanes to 1 lane, and then it has 2 other exits and merges immediately after going to 1 lane.  About 1/2 mile later, there is a roadway that comes in from the left and cars have to get across I70 to the right to continue.  It’s completely FUBAR.  I have no idea how the state, county, township and citizens have allowed it to remain that way.  In all, we were delayed about 1.5hrs.

Finally made it to the campground.  Checked in and while driving through the camp loop, I remembered why I hate MD State Park campgrounds.  They’re all gravel and dust pads.  “Gotta cut costs!  Gotta cut costs!”  They’re shit campsites for tents, and I ruined a couple tent pegs as a result.  We did have a nice overlooking view down a hill and into the woods.  We saw quite a few deer wandering through.  It was a great spot to listen to the wind on Saturday evening when it really kicked up too, because you could hear the gust coming down from the top of the hill, pass through the tree tops all around us and continue like a wave through the trees past the campsites further towards the lake.

A decent fire pit for grilling too.A decent fire pit for grilling too.

Headed out to Cumberland to find a grocery store and firewood.  Never buy firewood from a state park.  It’s the biggest GD ripoff going.  It was $6 for four pieces of small tinder!  Hardly even split logs!  We eventually found a farmer along the main road that provided camp wood via the honor system.  $10 and we got a fair amount and good size.  Yet, back in Cumberland, the people in grocery store were just weird.  Everyone had  a very pronounced southern accent.  Seriously???  I’ve been further south into W. Virginia where the southern accent wasn’t nearly as strong.  Shit — I was in Asheville, NC several weeks ago, and I’d dare to say that these Marylanders had equally strong accents as the Ashers.  Anyway, they could only give us directions to things if we were going in a certain direction.  For instance, only if we were going west could they tell us where a convenience store is.  “How about Fire wood?”  “Hmm.  Don’t reckon.”  . o O (“you don’t reckon what?!?!”)  Driving around in Cumberland looking for a grocery store, we pulled up next to some people on the sidewalk to ask for directions.  They were certainly friendly enough, but they were like, “Hmmpf.  Geez!  Well, let me think.  It’s a ways!  You gotta go back to this light, go left, right over the tracks and then go right.  You’ll go past houses, and you’ll think it’s an area where people live — but just stay on that road.  You’ll eventually find it.”  As simple as a left, then a right and then a second right is, these people made it out to sound like it was miles away and confusing to get to.  Amanda and I both decided that W. Virginia should just send a militia of coal miners into western Maryland and annex it.

Back to the campground to cook pasta while waiting for Victoria, who finished work at 5:30pm in CC @ Alma.  She  didn’t get on the road until close to 6.  She showed up at the campground around 9:30-9:45.  I don’t like to think about how fast she was going to get there in such a short time.  Dinner done.  Smores galore and Coronas … “what race???  I’m camping, goddammit!”  Bed.  Rise and shine.  Steel cut, nanners and raisins for breakfast.  Hiked the Mt. Trail that was right next to our campsite and was part of the bike loop for the race.

A gently sloping downhill -- it was a good section for speed, especially with the full suspension! :-)A gently sloping downhill — it was a good section for speed, especially with the full suspension! :-)

DSCN3513

Nice single track section along the Lakeside Trail on the south/eastern side of Lake Habeeb.Nice single track section along the Lakeside Trail on the south/eastern side of Lake Habeeb.

We agreed that we lucked out to get a good campsite location.  Constantly had people coming out of the woods who were pre-riding the course past our site.  Got to talk to quite a few people as they changed flat tires, waited for their slower friends or mended their cuts and bruises.

While cooking dinner, we noticed this one guy walking along the trail with his bike.  I watched as he flipped it over, looked at it, kind of just looked around, and then turned it upright.  It looked like he didn’t have any spares, so I walked over to see if he needed help.  Turns out that his tire wasn’t flat, but he had crashed.  In doing so, he lost the lower pulley on his rear derailleur!!!  I was rather perplexed, because 1) how could you ride a bike not knowing that your gear is in a working condition at a minimum, 2) how often does that occur?!  But, Danny — as he would later introduce himself — was kinda young and green, and didn’t really seem to know his ass end from his front end.  He was probably 3miles still the transition area, and he was already 45mins late in meeting his dad back there.  I offered to drive him over, and I told him to put the bike up on the roof rack while I cleaned out some stuff from the passenger side.  He didn’t know how to undo the cantilever brake.  He didn’t know how to undo the quick release and take the wheel off.  And, he was going to do the race on Sunday?!?!  Wow.  Seeing as how you don’t carry spare derailleur pulleys nor do the volunteer bike shop employees at race morning bring THAT kind of spares with them, there was no fixing that bike that weekend, and Danny figured that he’d ride his dad’s bike for the race since dad wasn’t racing.  I think he made out all right, since I saw him walking around the pavilion post-race.  I guess that’s what you do as a dad.

Chicken, rice, beans, applesauce, a few smores, 2 beers, campfire popped popcorn — BED.  Slept well enough.  What seems to be a trend with XTERRA since the actual race distances aren’t that long (EX2:  0.75mi swim, 14mi off-road, 5mi trail run) is that they don’t start at 7am.  The races seem to start more around 8:30-9.  That meant a decent enough hour to stay up and shoot the shit with my sisters and not getting up so early.  More steel cut oats, raisins, nanner and dried cranberries.  Car was packed and bike loaded from Sat. night.  5mins to the opposite side of the lake to the start area, and I began to tinker.

Race morning -- plenty of time.Race morning — plenty of time.

Cleaned and lubed the chain.  Checked tire pressure.  Shocks at a good pressure.  Then did some adjusting to the derailleur, because the shifting is still a little screwy and off thanks to Granogue (see the previous post and you’ll understand why…yes, even after all these weeks!).  Set up transition easy enough … just a bit different with the clear lenses, bike socks, gloves and such.

"Check, check and check ... yeah ... check."“Check, check and check … yeah … check.”

Warm up.  Induce some wood choppin’.  Stretch.  Race briefing.  Gel.  Water.  Corral.  Go.

Another thing with XTERRA, it seems that the swim starts are away from the water and down the beach.  That’s how it was for EX2, and I’ve seen it described like that for several others.  Maybe it’s an east coast thing.  Dunno.  Got a good run down the beach and one of the first 15 people into the water.  Didn’t sight very well, and swam a bit zig-zaggy out to the last buoy.  They weren’t the biggest buoys, and it’s my error, since I should have gone down to the lake beforehand to see how many buoys went out before turning.  First lap was okay, and quickly up the grassy hill and down the other side to start the second loop.  Felt a bit better for the second loop and found myself in a pack of 3 or 4 other dudes, and I actually swam off the feet of the lead guy about halfway out to the turn buoy until he started to veer off course.  Other comments re: the swim … saw one guy swimming doggy-paddle with a life vest — seriously?!?!  I mean, you’re just asking for the rescue personnel to escort you around the course all day… the start of the swim loop went through about 30 yards of lake grass … 79-80 degrees and no wetsuit.

My time for the swim was something like 29mins.  Questions that I have that never got answered.  Did we actually swim 3/4 of a mile, or is the 3/4 of a mile comprised of the beach run, the 2 swim loops, the run up and down the hill for the second swim loop, and also the run from the lake back to the transition area?  The running combined was probably 1/4 mile.  Now, thinking to myself, “was each swim 1/4 mile?”  Not sure, as I’m not good at gauging a swim / over-water distance.  Pressed — I’d say no, and that the swim sections combined were 3/4 of mile, which would mean that my actual swim time for 3/4 of a mile was less than 29mins.  Yet, that could just be hopeful bias in thinking that my swimming has improved to that level!

Transitioned quick enough.  Out onto the pavement.  Over the dam.  Off the bike and up the stairs.  Single track, off camber at times, and rooty.  Smile for the camera!  Tight, twisty single track, and BOOM!!!  “Ouch — that hurts!  WTF!  Damn — I just fractured my elbow again … SHIT FUCK SHIT FUCK SHIT!!!”  (I clipped a tree — not sure how … maybe just to fast, didn’t see it, didn’t brake soon enough … no idea.)  Thoughts of having just screwed myself through injury for IMWI dominate my brain.  With the wind out my sail, I cruised along a bit cautiously and more slowly as I waited for my elbow to seize up and lose the range of motion in my arm like I did last year when I fractured my elbow.  Yet, it didn’t happen.  It did hurt like hell, but I could still fully straighten out my arm.  Got to Evitt’s Revenge, and while I was buoyed a little bit with the condition of my arm, I wasn’t yet confident enough to risk a fall while trying to make it up this steep.  Through the Mountain Trail, and I was happy with how I was handling the rocks.  No problems.  Got to the downhill section, flipped the switch on the RP23 to disengage the pro-pedal, and it was straight downhill.  It was a freaking blast.  Around the other side.  Through transition.  Start the 2nd loop.  Past the area of my nemesis tree without incident.  Cleaned it up Evitt’s Revenge and was stoked.  Yeah, it is still faster to ride up the hill than to walk the bike.  Fell a second time on the most technical section of the Mountain Trail.  Fell right on my farkin’ elbow again.  Not as hard, but still enought to piss me off.  I’d like to apologize to racer #196, the big dude riding the Niner.  Sorry for that fall.  Stupid and I should have gotten off the bike sooner.  Thanks for not running me over.  That’s some good bike handling skills to stop that quickly on rocks, track stand it, unclip, and move around me.

Got caught up behind some slow dudes on the Lakeside Trail.  Didn’t know how to tell them to stop and move over since there was little room, but a chick and Mr. 196, who I had repassed on the campground road, came up behind and ordered them over.  I got over too, but I latched onto them as they went past, so I made it around these guys and sped back to transition.  1hr 20min ride.  3mins faster or thereabouts on the second loop.

Quickly out onto the run course, and I felt freakin awesome despite having run all week and my taper consisting of no run or swim on Saturday.  Had a nice pace going and was busting it through the Lakeside Trail.  Passed one dude.  Then another.  And another.  Passed some bikers out on the course still.  Passed 2 dudes suffering the uphill on the campground road.  Trudged my way up Evitt’s without stopping.  Then downhill into the ravine, and that’s where it really got exciting.  This trail isn’t exactly conducive to running.  It’s something I would generally take my time going down if I was hiking.  I mean, it’s not death defying, but some of the steps you take going down are alternating greatly in distance and angle.  It’s definitely technical.  It’s not something you would run down unless you were A) racing like I was, or B) being chased through the woods by Rambo.  I caught up with a guy and girl about halfway down.  She let me go by.  I was content to stay behind the dude, because I was actually following his steps.  He stayed in front until he felt the need to let me go by, which I did a bit begrudgingly.  At the bottom and over the little bridge.  What goes down, must come up.  And so it began … not much of a run at that point except for  two or three 20-30 yard sections — if I recall correctly.  This was steeper stuff, and I was again grabbing onto small trees.  This time I was using them to pull me up instead of swinging me around and checking my speed like I was doing on the way down the ravine.  Then it just got silly.  The trail stopped at a boulder field, and it was a rock climb/scrambble up the side for about 50′ maybe?  It was badass.  I can only hope that every XTERRA has a run course like this one.  To the top, through the woods, pop out onto the road, water to wash down a gel that I took too late, because I popped out onto the road with less than a mile to go — I think.  Down the road, around a bend, and I see a pack of guys up ahead.  4 of them.  They go around another bend, and I see all them looking over their shoulders.  I notice 2 of them really up the tempo a bit after that.  I started to reel in the one guy.  Back towards the resort/golf course, and I’m closer still.  I figure I’ll catch this one dude.  Yet, the path to the finish wrapped around the transition area on the grass, and it wasn’t a straight shot where I could really sprint it out.  I didn’t give it much effort in the last 100yds, and the guy I thought I would reel in finished 5 seconds ahead of me.

Get across the line, and we both congratulate one another.  He thanks me for really pushing him that last mile or whatever.  Then he asks me which age group I was in.  I told him “30.”  He’s like, “Oh!  Good!”  I didn’t think much of it at that point, other than he probably didn’t have to worry about me to begin with since he was probably a different age group.  Then, as it turns out, when I find that I’m 3rd in the M30-34 age group, I see that the second place guy is 5secs ahead of me, and it was the guy that was more like, “Oh!  Good!  I beat you — ha! ha!”  I thought to myself, “Son of a bitch!” and had a laugh.  We joked about it when we went up for the award.  Fair enough like — I wasn’t upset that he said it; it’s just what he blurted out at the end of a race.  I ended up with one of the top overall run splits, and I had the top run split for M30-34.  I was happy enough with 3rd for my first XTERRA since I didn’t have any expectations for it other than getting in a good intensity session.

Laughing to myself and looking like a goober -- pint glasses for awards ... no finishers' medals thank you very much!Laughing to myself and looking like a goober — pint glasses for awards … no finishers’ medals thank you very much!

EX2 Adventures put on a good race.  They go a little nutty with giving out awards for 5th and 4th place, especially when you put on a Du the same day, and you’ve got Solo-Du, Team-Du, Team-Tri, Solo-Tri and age groups within each of those!  And, when you don’t start your awards proceedings on time and people are supposed to check out of a state park campground at 3pm…you don’t leave people much time and choice.  Certainly no complaints with the post race spread.  Water and more Orange flavored Gatorade Endurance than you could have shaken a stick at.  M&M’s … several different cookies.  Nanners & watermelon.  Pappa John’s pizza.  Some other stuff.  It was more than enough for the 400 or so people racing.

Back to the campground.  Burnt the rest of the firewood — to hell with the State of Maryland coming around after we left to pick up our wood that they would definitely rebundle and sell.  Wrapped some sandwiches to make roasted lettuce, tomato, ham turkey and cheese melts.  Broke down the tents.  Packed the cars.  Down to the lake to cool off before driving home.  Away we went.  Done.

I proceeded to take an ill-advisable route back east through Hagerstown, towards and around Gettysburg, eventually finding my way back to York, then to Lancaster, and down Rt. 30 to West Chester.  Made it to B&E’s around 9:30pm.  They had finished packing up their apartment, and Red Sombrero was closed.  Got enough of that in the next two days helping them move their stuff into their new townhome.  It was a good weekend.

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~ by jerseyquaker on July 21, 2009.

2 Responses to “EX2 XTERRA — Rocky Gap State Park, Maryland — July 12, 2009”

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