When we were asked to help put on the races for Club Scrub at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, my first thought was how awesome an Endurance Race would be there. The trails have dirt, shellrock, berms, table tops, climbs, drops, and a little bit of sand too. Besides being my home course, I think what the trail crew has transformed this old sand pit into is pretty awesome, and I was excited for everyone to come and see it for themselves.
While designing the course, I wanted to make it different enough so that the locals would be thrown for a loop, but not miss out on any of the really great sections that had been crafted by the trail fairies to maximize gnar shreddage. We made sure to have a good pit area for racers to refuel and make repairs, feed zone and a nice long fast start to separate the big group in a mass start. And boy was it a big group: over 140 total racers between the different classes of solo and team racers showed up to have fun and support Club Scrub’s trail building efforts.
As the first race in the series, those racers competing in the Solo 6 Hour Open category were eligible to get points towards the King & Queen of JD competition. Looking around the pits as race time got closer you could see were there some racers there in every category; it seemed like everyone was still fit from a long FSC season with Gone Riding and ready to smash out one more race before the holidays. Longtime FSC veterans Tim & Troy Zimmerman were out to defend their home turf, while reigning FSC Champ Carolyn Maddox and former FSC Champ Simone Berger were looking to battle it out in the 3 hour class. In the team category you had guys like Elliot Cook and Jordan Swingle out there to smash for 3 and 6 hours, plus the Bike Shop in Stuart fielding an army of racers in teams to sweep the co-ed division.
I knew it was going to be a good day already, with all the work the army of volunteers had put in, and when it came time for the riders meeting I realized I was supposed to be talking during that! When I’d normally be warming up and getting in my pre-race routine, I went through the race rules and just made sure everyone was there to have fun and be safe. In case anybody thought the start of an Endurance race was going to be nice and civilized, Bryan Liles from Beyond Bikes put out a $50/$100 Preme for the first & second lap leaders of the Open Class. A Preme is a separate prize given to the racer who has the fastest lap for a designated lap, in this case the first lap and double if the same racer gets it lap 2.
With that kind of prize on the line aside from pride and King of JD points on the line, when the whistle blew we took off at breakneck speeds. Oh yeah I forgot to mention, not only did we help put on the race but I had to race it too, 6 hour solo Open men of course! Following the motopaced start, once the Mule pulled to the side we hammered down the asphalt trail leading down to the entrance of the singletrack. Holding a sustained 25mph+ for a VERY long time, I had never expected to start a 6 hour race with this level of intensity. I went into the single track towards the back of the lead group of about a dozen, and when I looked back there were no other racers in sight. Those who took off slower were much much smarter than we were.
The first part of the trail was a loose section that was reverse from the normal direction, so we were flying in there at breakneck speeds in unfamiliar turns. A few minutes in we approached what I knew would be the toughest section of the day: Juliana’s Sandbox, but backwards. Normally this section is very tough: deep sugar sand downhill with a bit of a curve, big palmetto roots at the bottom. But backwards it started with big palmetto roots, followed by a deep sugar sand climb. Yeah, that was the worst. Even in the lead group there were guys dismounting and running up that climb, myself included. After the initial frenzy I started to get in a groove, dialing back the pace a bit and settling into lap 1.
I was a minute or two off of the leaders, but I felt alright and like I could hold that pace for 6 hours. I rolled through the pits and started my 2nd lap hoping to close the gap a little and push it. Unfortunately when I entered one of the loose reverse sections I put the bike down, cracking my Garmin mount. Luckily I didn’t do any other damage, so I threw the Garmin in my pocket and continued on. But the problem was that I would be blind for the rest of the day: no HR, no power, no lap times. Just had to go on best guess, which I hadn’t ever raced on before.
Laps 3 and 4 clicked off like clockwork, taking a bottle on the even laps and making sure I stayed up on my fluids to prevent cramping for a long day in the saddle. I was using a custom blend from Infinit Nutrition, designed for my individual needs for an endurance race. The stuff is pretty good, but as it got hotter in the day I started drinking more. And that became a problem when the number of calories designed for an hour started getting consumed in 30 minutes or less. Laps 5 and 6 I started to feel pretty ill, with double the amount of calories in my stomach for 3+ hours and no data of what my power or HR was looking like. I stopped at the end of lap 6 and drank some water, then left with a bottle of half mix and half water. Instantly I felt better as my body was able to recover and thin out all those calories sitting in my stomach.
After about 4 and a half hours the day started to catch up with me. As I passed the timing and scoring table, I asked who had already quit to see if I could have some justification for throwing in the towel. Turns out very few had, the rest of the guys were still out there suffering. I knew if I really hammered it I MIGHT be able to get 2 more laps out, but realistically 1 more lap and my day was over. So I set out for a nice easy lap to finish out the day. After the 3 hour mark many of the racers were done, so the course got pretty quiet which was cool.
Flowing through the trails I was getting into a nice rhythm when all of the sudden BAM, I heard air hissing out of my rear tire. I stopped to look what happened and found a nice big hole in my well loved Vittoria Mezcal. After a full fall season and countless training hours, I had no issues with this tire, but as I put a CO2 in there to try and fill it I realized it wasn’t going to hold. I rolled down the trail a little bit in hopes I might be able to baby it back to the finish line and count the lap, but it was pretty clear that I was going to have to bail out of the lap.
Bummed I couldn’t finish the lap, I came back to the pits with 8 laps officially counting, putting me in 12th place after all the riders finished up. Some of the guys who beat me were in their first endurance race, which is tough enough to finish, especially with the conditions and competition that was on the line at JD that day. I definitely learned some lessons about being prepared (bring a tube), pacing (don’t do 29mph on the start), hydration (it’s an hours worth of nutrition, not 30 minutes), so hopefully I can apply that to the upcoming Florida Endurance Series starting this month at Carter Road in Lakeland.
Jemma was super busy the day of the race but she managed to snag a few hundred shots once things were under way. We really hope you enjoy them, check out the full JD Challenge Series Endurance Race Gallery and sneak peek below!