Dave Berger was calling this year the Hurricane Season for FSC, with several races being rescheduled or cancelled due to a number of storms hitting the state. FSC #2 was moved to Tallahassee on a weekend I was off in North Carolina, so I had to miss that one. I heard the short track was great and the trails looked fun, I’ll have to catch it next time.
Last weekend was FSC #3 in Alafia, outside Tampa FL. I’d only been there once for the Alafia 6hr race last spring and I knew how much fun this place was. The trail workers there had been laboring to get the trails ready post Hurricane Irma and it showed. The trails were fast and flowing, with new features throughout incorporated into the race course. We went out Saturday to check out the course and get a feel for what it looked like. One interesting feature was a very technical series of climbs and descents in the very early part of the race called Spitfire. Combined with a very short start until the single track, I knew this race would get spicy early.
Since I go in the 2nd wave of racers, I got to watch so many of my friends start their races and cheer them on as they went by in the 1st wave. The heat was definitely taking it’s toll on everybody early, you could see cramping and pain on just about everybody but a couple of the Elite racers. I tried to make sure I was hydrated and started warming up as those racers finished up.
I got to the start line and found my spot among some familiar faces in my class. There’s a huge group this year in XC3, over 20 deep at both races I’ve been at so far. When the gun went off the chaos began, sprinting wide open to gain position and try to get into the woods ahead. I was able to get in around 6th, working up to 4th before the sketchy Spitfire section began. With the leaders in sight and through the first technical test, I tried to settle into a sustainable pace and push through the singletrack. I was eventually able to work up to 2nd place with 1st in sight midway through lap 1. But it became apparent I may have gone out too hard, as racers were starting to catch up to me and pass. Each time I hoped to catch onto their wheel and keep up but I just wasn’t able to kick hard enough.
Finishing lap 1 in 5th position I started to find a good pace, but a few more came around me early and disappeared into the woods. I wasn’t sure if I was slow or these guys were fast, probably both, but I tried to keep them in sight and finish strong. Sitting in 8th place through the leg zapping Bridges and Rollercoaster, I was gaining time on the guys in front of me. Ultimately I couldn’t reel them in before the finish line, finishing in 8th place and about 2 minutes off the leaders.
The cool thing was that I was able to keep with the top guys in my class for a little bit, so I see what it’s going to take to get there. Now I just have to train a little harder, race a little smarter, and maybe get a little luck. It was really cool sitting around with all those racers afterwards and sharing stories of how the race went, where we did well and where we need to improve. It’s all serious when the whistle blows, but we’re all friends in the end. Cause, hey, racing bikes is fun!
Check out a sneak peek of pics from the race here and be sure to log in and have a look at the full gallery for FSC #3.