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Fat Tire Festival 2010

July 19, 2010

Fatty Fest 2010


The day after the day after tends to be the worst for pain, in my ample experience.  After three consecutive days of racing and about one major and two minor crashes, the healing begins:

  • one bruised left foot vs. stress fracture
  • sore sternum
  • bruised palm
  • countless scratches, scrapes
  • owie on right pinkie
  • one blown fork seal (I think)

Home of Worthless Ass?

En route through northeastern Oklahoma on my way to Eureka Springs in Northern Arkansas, I have driven by this house many times.  This day it demanded a photo and closer inspection:

A horse named "Worthless" or a worthless ass?

I always thought that perhaps this poor sap lost a bet.  Worse, what sort of man is beaten down enough to let his wife paint this on the garage–even if it is true?  Perhaps a horse named “Worthless” lives there.  (If said horse is of value–enough to paint his likeness on your garage–why would you call him “Worthless”?) In my opinion those ears are just too tall–“worthless ass” it is.  Feel free to weigh in.

Anyway.  I’m drifting off-topic.

Day 1: Downhill Practice and Short Track

When I arrived early Friday afternoon, I checked in to my cabin, changed clothes and headed to Lake Leatherwood to practice the downhill run.  The only time I have ever raced downhill was last year at this event, where I cracked two ribs.  Practice may help.  With no chairlifts to whisk riders to the top, and no “shuttle” showing up, I was forced to ride up the fire road to practice.  I quickly noticed that I was one of the few racers to have a bike that you can pedal uphill.  The course is a mile-and-a-quarter long with nicely sculpted berms and doubles, rock gardens, and jumps.  Fortunately, there is a “Sally line” around most everything so many riders can participate.  I hauled the hoary old 1999 Specialized FSR up the hill and cautiously rode down, inspecting the course and choosing my lines.  I then had to head out to the short track venue–Cat III’s ride first!  The venue was a motocross track, looping down into a creek bed and then up again–about a half-mile in length. 

Short track is best described as a dirt criterium.  As Cat III, I raced for fifteen minutes plus two laps.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it is basically a twenty-minute sprint.  Note the look of pain on my face below:

Did I really race? Here's PROOF!

I rode the SS 69’er for short track and it really worked well.  You shift a lot on a winding course with sharp turns, but it really does little to help, so with a single speed you don’t think about it.  Plus, not much pesky climbing, either!  I placed seventh in my division of about thirty riders.

Day 2: Downhill

Downhill racing always makes me nervous.  Some would say, “frought” with nervousness.  Last year a guy broke his neck.  Another broke his shoulder.  Granted, I am no hero.  I do not out-ride my brakes or my ability.  I do however, push myself.  How can I expect to get better unless I take a little risk?  I got there early enough to make a couple of practice runs before my two timed runs.  I would be racing in Cat II for downhill, in the “Limited Travel” division.  Impressed? [There is not Cat III in downhill].  In the downhill world, “Limited Travel” refers to anything five inches or less.  The FSR is well under that.  Too bad they don’t have a “Vintage” division–mine was the oldest of all bikes in attendance.  Hoping to improve my experience this year, I shod the FSR with 2.35″ downhill tires and a new “all-mountain” bar and stem.  On race day practice runs, I am a paragon of calmness.  I rode through the doubles smoothly and chose my line well.  Although I don’t trust the berms well enough yet to hit them at full speed, I am taking them faster.  I comfortably launch and land the 4-foot drop that claimed me last year.  Awesome!  I feel good!  I bolt through the rock gardens like water, and finish strong.  I confidently loaded back onto the trailer to be hauled to the top for my first of two timed runs.

Nerves.  The butterflies come as I wait on the starting ramp–my minute between me and the rider in front of me.  Countdown from five and-GO!  I cannot help taking my timed runs faster than I practice.  Excitement combined with nervousness, competitiveness, (and other -nesses, I’m sure) and spectators send me on the edge of what I can handle.  I come to the big drop, launch, and land wonky, overcorrect, and wipe out.  Again, bitch-slapped by the mountain.  As before I stand up, realize that nothing is broken, and ride on, noticing a big “CLUNK” sound over most bumps.  I slowly make it to the bottom and decide that it is either fork or headset-related.  I tighten up my headset, inspect the frame and fork for cracks, and head back to the top.  I feel better talking to most riders who crashed on one of their two runs.  Riding to the staging area, the clunks seem less noticeable.  Maybe I fixed it.  My second run began well, but now I feel gun-shy.  I nervously approach the large drop and slow too late as I miss the entrance to the “Sally line”, so I launch again, and land well, speeding through the berm and through the rock garden faster than ever before.  I had a clean second run!  Here I am riding with my mouth open, praying it slows me down like the parachute on a dragster:

Proof. For the haters.

Note:  It doesn’t.  I ended up finishing the course in 3’21”. (Full-on downhill bikes with 8″-10″ of travel won at about a minute faster.)  But I was pleased.  I appeared to suffer no permanent injury, and finished about middle-of-the-pack in my division.  I bested my last-year’s time by about ten seconds.  Maybe next year I will retire the FSR.  Metal fatigues, you know.  There was a jump contest at the end of the DH competition.  Here is a guy I call “dirt jump jesus” because I witnessed him land this backflip twice and…he kind of looked like Jesus.  (I kind of like to picture the Savior as a mountain biker with mad dirt-jumping skills.  Plus only he would dare execute a backflip without even a shirt on, right?)  I don’t know how one practices to do this, because the price of failure is so very high:

Ahh youth. Wasted on the young.

Day 3: Cross Country

I was worried.  Speaking to other racers at registration, there were very few singlespeeders.  I was running the SS 69’er with 32×16, a nice 2:1 ratio.  The climbs on the point-to-point XC course were supposed to be horrendous.  I was told I would need at least a 19-or-20-toothed cog to make it.  Well, I didn’t bring one and couldn’t find one, so I was faced with a dilemma:  haul the 35+ pound FSR up hills with gears, or ride the 25 pound SS up hills with gear.  A big one.  I opted for the latter, hoping that I would catch up some on the downhill and flat sections.  The course began in town and immediately climbed for most of the first three miles.  About half of this was pavement–not so bad.  I should have done more training running while pushing my bike, however.  I may have improved my time.  The course was 13.5 miles, about ten of which were of the rocky singletrack variety with many off-camber switchbacks.  I crashed once getting out of the way of a Cat I racer as I unclipped into nothingness and fell backward onto a sapling-filled ravine.  They caught me like a team-building exercise where you fall back and trust that your colleagues don’t hate you enough to let your body hit the floor.  I’ve never climbed so much in any race.  I learned two things about myself in this theatre of pain:

  1. Singlespeeds work nicely in Texas where we don’t have these things called “mountains”.  Derailleurs were invented for a reason.
  2. I really like front suspension.

I had a couple of mishaps on tight switchbacks resulting in falls, but they were only minor, scrape-inducing incidents.  In all, I finished fourth in the “Clydesdale Open” division.  I was the only clyde to ride a single speed.  Were there a class for 200+ pound single-speeders, I would have won!  Next time:  gears and suspension.  I am awaiting photos from the photographer for XC where I wore my Team CarboRocket jersey.  I’ll post them when I get them, along with some short dirt jump video clips from the DH competition…if I can figure it out.  Meanwhile–I’m going to try to recover.

One Comment leave one →
  1. christymcb permalink
    July 20, 2010 5:22 pm


    I loved the race reports, you certainly deserve the rest. What’s next on the list?

    BTW, the Worthless picture is priceless…I know a few people I can share that with! 😉



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