On Saturday the 26th I had the pleasure of suffering though 44 miles of WV singletrack and fireroads here is a true account below.
After for me what was a very disappointing finish at the 50 mile Big Bear Ultra, I just had to do better. 54th outta of 69 entrants kinda of sucks. Funny the Big bear Ultra sucked so bad I just want to do one of these and do better and actually enjoy it. So after Big Bear I knew that one thing was sure that my purely interval work outs werent helping me that much for an XXC race and that I was totally ill prepared for that race, for the revenge that would all change. I started doing slow easy tempo MTB rides that would last for hours and usually chew up a couple different set of riding partners. I was able to get to the point that 40 miles in 4 hours at my local(easy buff twisty singletrack) was easy for me to do. time to enter the battle ring again, and this time it was a real Duesenberg of a race "The Revenge of the Rattlesnake"
a little story on the "The Revenge of the Rattlesnake" from WVMBA
The 26th annual Revenge of the Rattlesnake Race is possibly the longest running annual mountain bike race in the galaxy, and it's the 4th and final race of the WVMBA Ultra Series. After the race, wash your bike, hang out, eat and drink right behind the bike shop!
The race first began in 1983, and became part of the Canaan Mountain Series back in 1984 and has been a series race ever since, as well as a popular attraction to riders from surrounding states as well as a few locals. Some locals who ride the trails all the time or have participated in the race, don't want any part of this race because they know what is in store!
The course changes every year and this year it is encompasses trails in Blackwater Falls State Park, National Forest- Canaan Mountain, Canaan Valley Institute property and Vandelia Heritage Foundation property. All in all and 44 mile course with enough technical and gnarly single track to test your endurance and will power!
So down to Davis I went to race this stupid hard, and painful race. My only real goals to suck less and to finish. Rain was the name of the game as was chilly air. temps hovered between 45-50 degrees all day long with moderate to heavy rain. Perfect weather right? It was pretty bad but I had leg warmers, arm warmers, foot booties and a surprisingly water proof jacket. I stayed warm and pretty dry nearly the whole time. My prep consisted of getting my bike out my car, checking tire pressure, setting my pedals to release easy and lubing my chain with my super heavy duty chainsaw lube which is perfect for the wet and gritty conditions of the day. Checked my bag to make sure I have my spare tubes, pump wrapped with duct taped, quick link,spare derail hanger, spoke wrench, and a multitool. good its all there, nothing sucks worse than getting stuck in the middle of the woods and having to hike out. I chow down a Pb&j sandwich, shove 6 "gu" packets down my short legs, fill my camelback and use a concentrated H.E.E.D. mixture in my bottle. I conveniently parked 10 feet from the start line, so back in to my warm car for 20 mins to wait for the mass neutral start.
Its start time 60 starters line up in Davis, Wv for a neutral roll out on the main street in a crowded due to the leaf peeper festival Davis, Wv. Excitement, nervousness, determination, unknowing every racer there feels alittle bit of this. Even the fastest guys know this is going to be tough. WV singletrack aint no joke, these trails are easily the hardest trails I have ever ridden. also you needed to get though plantation trail in 3.5 hours or you were marked as a DNF.
the trail map is here
elevation profile is here.
We started out going across the Blackwater river, right after the bridge a quick right on to STP trail. The STP trail is nothing more than doubletrack. I am trying my best to keep my cadence high and just spin easy. No effort is what I keep telling myself. I stay at the back of the front group before hitting Yellow Birch trail. Yellow Birch trail is your typical WV singletrack. Roots, soft ground, rocks, and drops. I am cruising most of it pretty easily yeah its tough but I am fresh and I make it though with out to many mistakes. One such mistake was hopping up on a rock only to see the left line I was taking was a 4 foot drop into a hole. I had to stop, should of taken the right line!. I get though the yellow birch trail and am glad to see paved road. Gu packet one consumed, I keep reminding myself to eat, or well in this case suck down Gu packets.
After the paved road we hit the Canaan Loop fire road. I catch up to some guys and some people catch us. I start to talk with them to force myself to go slow. One guy on turner RFX is eating up the chunky rocks on the fireroad like nothing. We then hit Mountain Side 114. This is roughly 10-15 miles on Elevation map. note yes the trail looks downhill, it is but you would never know it, its an old railroad bed that is just straight up rocks and fallen logs. The rocks are loose and require constant pedaling to keep moving though them. RFX dude passes me going mach schnell. This trail for me was much rougher to ride than plantation, I just hate loose rocks!! they scare the shit out of me and everything else in this race was no moveable rocks. At the bottom of the trail RFX dude has 2 flats. Note to everyone tubeless is always the way to go. thus starts the big climb. The guys I have been riding with remark that we probably arent going to make the post plantation trail check point. I am think to myself I didnt drive 3 hours to not finish, so I say see ya guys I am booking come if you want.
Thus starts the epicly long climb. 2500 feet to 3600 feet. Huge by this part of the world standards. the first part is steep but moderately easy fireroad. This went for roughly 2 miles. Then you got back to the Canaan Loop Fireroad 13. The fireroad was quite simply the easiest part of the race. despite going up it was pretty shallow and rolled fast. I was able to take down some Gu and eat one of my nutrigrain bars. I get to the top and see Aid station one. I ask them the time they say 1:05. I have an hour and 25 minutes to ride 9 miles of some of the hardest trail anywhere aka Plantation Trail.
Plantation Trail is the type of trail people ride just to say that "they have done it". Most people would ride this trail one way and call it a day and head back to their cars VIA roads. Today it is part of 44 mile race loop that you hit exactly after 19 miles of riding. This trail rocks because of how bad it can suck when you ride section you feel like you have accomplished something. There is not a smooth piece of trail for 9 mile of riding. There are multiple hike-a-bikes and tech sections that will make you rethink just how good of a rider you are. I actually had a ton of fun here, I had alot left in the tank so I was able to use a higher gear to power though the tough stuff. Lots of line choosing, bunny hoping, stepping up and drops down filled the trail. At some point in time I passed some "West Virginian Night clubs" smoking what I am sure is a banned substance. I also passed Steve Thorn who went on to get 4th in masters. He said I was killin it! I was to, well at least for that trail. I make it though plantation in 1:20 minutes trust me when I say this, good luck if you shall ever attempt this trail. Its is a worthy stop for anyone who considers themselves a MTBer. more importantly though is I hit the check point at 2:25. 5 minutes before the Cut and 26th outta of the 60 entrants. If your doing the math, alot of people didnt make the cut. I was surprised to not be caught by Betsy Shogren or Ruth Cunningham 2 ladies(and friends) who I was sure who would eat me up in an endurance race like this.
Leaving check point 2 at on Route 32 I continued on up the paved road to the high point of the race at mile 28. Thus started a roll coaster like ride up and down a very wet gravel road. I so wish my glasses werent fogged because I was totally blinded several times. soon enough the next trail came up. Rocky Point trail was a new trail made just for the ROTR. Needless to say it wasnt very worn in yet. This trail was the slickest trail of the race due to the mud and loose ground. In due time though this will be a very fun trail to ride especially the whoop de doo decent! On this day though, it was pure hell trying to get over 10 mph on the damn off cambered and slick trail. After 30 minutes of fighting to keep the bike on trail I see a river. They said there was a river crossing but holy shit they meant an actual river. This was the Blackwater River. I saw it said "F it!!' and just rode right into the damn thing. In less than feet I was up to my chest in water!. The only good news is that the river water was damn warm compared to the air and freezing cold rain we had that day. As I am laughing hysterically at the my absurd situation I stumble on a rock and lose my bike, my bike nearly floats away down river. I guess if your bike has large air volume tires it will actually float? I guess I learned one thing today. After the river crossing a rest awaited in the form of 3 mile long flat fire road.
After the 3 mile long fire road and a couple more GU packets, I reached aid station 3 at 3:15. 15 minutes ahead of the cut! sweet I am going to finish the whole course! I may suck but I am not a quitter! The guy at the aid station informs me to go right then follow the arrows. The arrows will take me around the West Virginian State Champs course backwards. Sweet right? Well today not really. To those of you that have ridden the state champs course Moon Rocks and Hoodoo rocks I am sure were built only to be hatefully hard. My legs werent toast they were tired but not toast but more importantly my arms were absolutely done. I could not unweight my front wheel and more or keep the bike straight on the wet rocks. I hiked a bike more in the next hour in a half than the entire course. I was pretty demoralized at the point but kept drudging on. I couldnt exactly quit in the middle of the woods. I kinda of wanted to when I tried to again find the rideable line down moon rocks and endo hard into granite. I finally get to the 'easy" section of the state champ course and start to enjoy the last couple miles of flowly singletrack. On the pump track like section of trail I am thinking I am so close! Only to then see a turn to the left down one more boggy, rocky trail. Determined to finish I am literally just pedaling full strength into rock gardens hoping for the best. I crest the last hill, see the last downhill of the state champs courses and am psyched. I motor down over the couple kickers. At least this race ended good. I finish, the guys keep time informs me of time of 5:54, whatever I finished. Rode back up to my car and changed.
So thus ends my second foray into endurance racing. This time I enjoyed alot more of the ride and actually felt good enough to cross race in a "elite" group badly the next day. The Revenge of the Rattlesnake has some of the hardest singletrack I have ever ridden let alone raced on. Anyone in the area should try this race at least once. IMO finishing on a nice day is an accomplishment, finishing on a cold rainy day when you not even close to the best out there is take some will power.
A mans desire to go fast! Like Ricky Bobby but more redneck.