I made the trip up to Hayward this past weekend to have a go at the Chequamegon 40. The new Trek Farley 9.8 was delivered a couple weeks ago so I figured I would see how this 22 lb (tubeless) beast would perform on the 40 mile course. For those of you that aren't familiar with this course it is mostly the Birkie, mixed with some service roads and other gravel roads.
Though the Farley is a specimen of a bike I've only been able to ride it once before the race and that was a simple 19 miles on gravel. This one ride did, however, help me get a good feel on some fit adjustments that I needed to do.
Race day morning I headed to the start line. I was able to sign up after it was closed but didn't know what type of racing shape I'd be in so I just used the default "wave 7", which was the last wave. Back to the walk up to the start line, I realized this was a bigger race than I thought. As I moved past wave 1, wave 2, wave 3,...all the way back to the last wave, my wave 7, I wasn't sure how the 3 mile roll-out was going to go.
As the rollout began I decided I was just going to race "my own race" today and enjoy the experience and hopefully come out uninjured. Then, 60 seconds later you get caught in the spectator's cheers and the riders that begin to hammer down. At that moment I thought back to an article in the latest issue of Dirt Rag I just read the previous evening that was written by Rebecca Rusch. Rebecca was talking about training with men and how their testosterone turns an "easy" ride into the Tour de France. And how guys can make everything a competition. Apparently, like every other guy, that just kicked in. At that moment I figured I would ride at an above comfortable pace to where my mind could push my body through the last couple miles of the race.
Mile 5, this is super fun! Mile 10, what an experience this is! Mile 15, there are so many different rider types and bikes...awesome! Mile 20, I didn't realize how much mud there would be - I don't mind mud at all...still fun! Mile 29, oh, this is the Fire Tower Hill they spoke of. Being as there were about 1900 riders and I started somewhere in that 1700 range, there were quite a few people ahead of me still at this point. I would estimate 200-300 of those in front of me were on the hill now, with the majority of them walking. I told myself I would NOT walk any part of this course and I stuck to it. I just leaned over my bars and kept spinning until I finally reached the top. Wow! Not too bad, I thought to myself. I still feel OK and I'm 3/4 of the way done, and the Fire Tower is behind me. Now it should be all down hill on the way in....wrong. There were more hills, obviously not as big, but they hurt worse. My lactate acid was not flushing out as quickly as it was before and my stomach began to cramp. The next 6-7 miles weren't too bad but I definitely began to get tired.
Mile 36, there is the wall I figured would come at some point, glad I only have 4 miles to go. Now in my head as riders began passing me, I wonder if this course is truly 40 miles...maybe it's 41...or 42...or...wait, I think I hear cowbells and cheering (typically the finish line is near). Yes! Mile 40 is definitely the finish line and I couldn't be happier to see it! I mustarded up whatever I had left in the tank I pushed it to the end...tired, exhausted, ready to fall over...I definitely be back next year!
On The Farley 9.8:
As I mentioned above, the 2016 Trek Farley 9.8 weighed in at 22 pounds with the tubeless setup on the 27.5 tires. I really wasn't sure how the condition of the course would be so I ran the psi around 12. I think I could have dropped them a bit more. I would maybe try 8 in the front and 10 in the rear. I found myself bounced too much but it was definitely fast. I got a lot of cheers when I rode up the Fire Tower Hill when most were walking. There were a few unexpected bumps, rocks, & water holes I hit that would normally make me tense up but that was not the case at any point in the race. The Farley rolled through, over, & around every obstacle.
Next up for the Farley, winter & snow!