Thursday, June 21, 2012

Domnarski Farm XC: the good, the bad, and the muddy

Domnarski Farm XC is an old timey mountain bikey course. I only suppose this is so, since I've been racing mtb for 6 years. The guys I train with used to race mtb "back in the day" on narrow long loops of mixed dirt road/jeep trail/single track courses that sound just like this one. So I imagine this course appeals to racers who fondly remember Onza pedals, Suntour XC group, and Oakley pilots.

I found the course really challenging to ride and more challenging to race. The course is a ten mile loop starting and ending on a narrow strip of farm trail. I came early to do a preview lap since I had never ridden at Domnarski Farm, and my category was racing only one lap. Immediately I saw that the narrow start track heading quickly into uphill single track would mean a front row start would be vital. After the first single track climb the course meandered around the woods, in and out of wide dirt roads. The challenge was that every so often a hub deep pool of murky water covered the track, both in the single track and on the dirt roads. These mystery bogs could be fast, could be slow, and could hide wheel breaking obstacles; sometimes in the same mud hole. There must have been two dozen of these death traps around the course from the monsoon like rains of the prior week. No one could avoid them. A few times I wished for a snorkel and mask.

I finished my preview lap muddy and a little beat up. I had just enough time to change jerseys, clean the mud off my glasses, and hustle for my front row spot. I kept my elbows wide as we rolled up to the line so as not to get shuffled back, but all for not. Off the line I missed my pedal twice and faded back to 6th wheel. I kept driving into the single track and picked off a couple of guys as they fell on slippery roots. Once we got to the flatter single track, Will Raymond caught my wheel and cruised past. No worries, I figured I could catch him in the double track and pass him on the hill. No such luck.

Once into the double track I kept pushing the speed. I found the mystery bogs easier to ride at race speed with a little bit (alot) of dumb luck. At the end of the race I saw broken bikes eaten by the monsters in the bogs littering the field. Once at the power line hill I could see Will about 30 seconds ahead. Unfortunately he was hoofing fast, and worse John Allen rode up to my wheel. John and I traded positions back and forth up the steepest hill on the course. Once we got down into the boggy single track I realized we only had 1.5 miles left to race. Another guy in our category was closing on John as well. Being the good cyclocross racer I am, I started running every deep mud section. I put a solid gap into John and his chaser. Then coming into the last wide mud bog my bad luck caught up to me. I picked the wrong line, endo'd on a submerged log, and splashed down in the murky muck. John and the chaser passed me as I was remounting. I had half a mile of down hill single track to try and catch them. It was not enough course to close the gap. I rolled across the finish line a few seconds behind them and pounded my handlebars in frustration.

Solid effort, lack luster result. But on the bright side, I've never raced a muddy mtb course better. I supposed that if I close my eyes and imagine the muck monsters just aren't there, they go away; at least for a little while.

P.S. Thank you to Matt Domnarski and his family for putting on a mountain bike race at their beautiful farm. Worth the trip.

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