The first thing I did when I woke up Saturday morning was check out the window to see if it had been snowing. You see, we’ve been getting boatloads upon bucketloads of snow in Alpine, UT this year, and I had given myself permission to not race the 2008 Frozen Hog if there was more than a couple inches of fresh snow I’d have to plow through. So I was hoping for lots of new snow.
There was no new snow.
So suited up, ate breakfast, stripped back down so I could use the bathroom, suited back up, put all my gear in the truck, stripped back down so I could use the bathroom, and then suited up a third, final time.
All business, I headed to the staging area, and got my racing bib. I decided to register as Sport 40+ and race against other guys my age who were on geared bikes, even though I was on my singlespeed. My bike prep was as thorough as ever: I ran a greasy rag over the chain, and checked how the tires felt. Since I’d be riding on snow, I let practically all the air out; I’d do the race with my tires at about 10psi. I then established myself in my rightful place in the pack: about halfway back.
I had a race to lose.
A Study in Differences
A bunch of friends were also at the race — Kenny, Brad, Bry, Chris, Kris (who was taking care of registration and was kind enough to take my camera an take some pictures during the race), Racer, and Riley, among many others. That’s one of the great things about local races: it’s a good opportunity to meet up with your riding buddies.
Dug, for those of you who wondered, declined to come because he doesn’t like riding in the snow. Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) planned to come until he found out that the prize purse was under $5000.
Kris took some pictures at the starting line. Check out Kenny. He’s got his game face on.
And now, check out me. I have my "What have I gotten myself into?" face on.
Also, it looks like my helmet is in a different strata of the atmosphere than my head.
A Warm Feeling
As you might have surmised, the day started out cold. But I was trying out a new thing to keep my neck and trunk warm: A Warm Front Chest Warmer (full disclosure: Warm Front sent me one of their chest warmers at no charge to write about if I thought it was worth writing about, but they’re not paying me anything). It’s a lightweight fleece rectangle that goes over your chest, with a turtleneck-style collar that fastens with a velcro tab at the back.
It worked just like it should. it kept my trunk and especially neck warm the whole ride. I haven’t tried it on a road ride yet, but I can imagine this would be great for cold road rides, where an extra layer on the chest and neck against the wind would be very nice. And when the ride turns warm, just pull off the velcro tab and stuff the whole thing into a jersey pocket — no stopping required.
A Great First Lap
I felt really fantastic the first lap of the race. I was chatting with the guy ahead of me (Riley), staying on the trail, and feeling strong. Look how happy I am. And, more importantly, look at how nice the trail looks. Some folks put a lot of work into packing that thing down.
Forget about passing in the singletrack section, though.
As I rode, I was thinking to myself, "This is great! I’m having an excellent time! Why didn’t I want to come out here? I’m going to come out and ride this exact same trail again tomorrow, just for fun!"
And yes, I meant each of those exclamation points.
I was feeling so good, in fact, that partway down I passed Riley — a guy who usually beats me at everything — and then closed on Chris, whom I told my plan:
"I’m going to draft on you for the rest of the race, and then nip you in the sprint at the finish."
Yes, I did actually say that. At which point, Chris pulled over and said, "No you’re not."
So I went ahead, passing a few people in the Sport category, and getting passed by nobody but folks in the Expert category.
I should mention, by the way, that this was probably the most cordial race I have ever been in. With only one uptight exception (an expert rearended me on a downhill corner after I slid out, and let out an exasperated, sarcastic "Nice riding") any expert who wanted by would say stuff like, "Yield for me whenever you get a chance, no rush."
Not a lot of angst in this crowd.
Second Lap: Considerably Less Great
The thing riding on a trail made of recently packed snow — snow that hasn’t had a chance to soften and then re-freeze — is when 60 or so riders do a lap on it, it gets chewed up. Chewed up, let’s say, to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to ride on in a climb, or to do a turn, or even to descend on.
So I did a lot of walking. Everyone did. I guess Riley’s a faster walker than I am — or he was better about choosing when to walk and when to ride — because he passed me back.
After the race, I would describe the snow on the trail as "like powdered sugar, with some creamed cheese mixed in. So, it’s like a creamed-cheese frosting."
Bry, hearing me say that, remarked, "You really do think about everything in terms of food, don’t you?"
Yes. Yes I do.
Anyway, this second lap just sapped me. My left wrist was bothering me from the constant handlebar wrestling. My tights were getting saggy and kept hanging up on the saddle nose anytime I remounted the bike — which was about once every ninety seconds.
And I kept falling down.
Now, falls into deep snow don’t hurt at all, but it does take some time to swim your way out. Especially, as you can see in the picture above, if you’re still clipped in to the side of the bike that’s pinning you into four-feet-deep snow, and you have nothing to use as leverage to right yourself..
For those of you who are wondering how I eventually got out, the answer is really quite simple: I didn’t. I’m still there now. Somebody, please come get me.
Eventually, I finished, fourth in my category (all results can be seen in this PDF), which doesn’t sound so bad until you know the first place racer in my category finished 18 minutes ahead of me.
As an interesting note, if I had raced in the singlespeed category, I would have placed 4th in that, too.
I have a picture of me finishing, but the one of Brad finishing is more impressive:
By the way, Kenny took 1st in Expert 40+ (doing most of the second lap on a flat); Brad took 3rd. My friends are fast.
After the Race
After the race, Kenny moped around because while he had won his category, his team would not be taking home the Frozen Hog travelling trophy for the fourth straight year.
"Why didn’t you invite me to be on your team?" I asked.
"Because you’re too fat and slow," Kenny replied.
Thanks, Kenny. You’re a swell guy.
And then we got to the part I’d come to the race for in the first place: giving away the bikes. Here’s me, going on and on and on, while everyone looks on, wishing I’d shut up and draw the winning tickets already.
The local raffle — where you had to be present to win — raised $650 for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the winner was Dan Hutchings of Salt Lake City.
The second bike was raffled here on this blog, toward raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Together, you all donated $1410, and the winner is Dan V of Seattle, who donated $50 to the LAF for this raffle — the best $50 he’s ever spent, I’m guessing. Here’s what Dan has to say:
I just moved to Seattle from Pittsburgh. I don’t own a mountain
bike or a singlespeed or a 29er, but after reading your blog for a year, I wanted to. Especially in a bike friendly area like this. Especially in a rainy but year-round commuter friendly area like this.
But I ended up spending my part of my relocation signing bonus on
silly things like roof repairs, and my bike acquisition plans were being delayed and might have had to rely on black budget tricks.
Like making a strategic donation.
Congrats to both winners! And a big thanks to Rich W and Racers Cycle Service for donating the bikes for the raffles.
A Day Later
Now a day’s past since I raced the Frozen Hog. Was it worth doing? Definitely. Did I have fun? Half the time.
Am I going to ride the course again as soon as possible? Nope, because another 14" of snow has fallen since then.
PS: A big thanks to Racer’s Cycle Service and UtahMountainBiking.com for putting on a terrific event. Everyone knows that I go to Racer’s pretty much exclusively both for bike sales and service, and UtahMountainBiking.com is an excellent resource to Utah-based mountain bikers, with an incredibly deep catalogue of bike trails in Utah.