2018 Secret Squirrel MTB Race

Yesterday, Shepard and I did the Secret Squirrel MTB Race at Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. This was Race #3 in the Bubba Trophy Series. Unfortunately, we missed Saturday’s Belltown Throwdown in Connecticut, but that was because we were having our own adventure on Cape Cod with Boy Scouts Troop 25. On this National Trails Day Weekend, we still got outside. Heck, we were outside most of the time.

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Secret Squirrel was conveniently located on our return route from the Cape, so an early Sunday departure got us to the venue in time for Shep’s 9:00 A.M. Novice Juniors race. He did one 6.3 mile lap in the rocky forest. It was a great learning experience and he had fun. These trails are flat, but so rocky, that they are amongst the most challenging on the New England circuit. They make the worst sections of Case Mountain look smooth by comparison. Long rock gardens sections are broken up with a few fire road transitions, but even the “roads” are rough.

My race wasn’t until noon. It was my first time “pushing it” since my Reno wreck. I’ve made good progress over the last five months. I’ve done a lot of bicycle commuting, a little mountain biking, but no real “training.” This was my first race since USA Cyclocross Nationals, and the first time I got my heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time.

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My left leg still has some issues. The broken bone (fibula) is healed, but I still have pain related to the soft tissue damage and built up scar tissue (fibrosity) that is reducing my range of motion. I’ve been doing therapy to restore the fine motor control in my ankle. It is appropriately sore after yesterday’s effort. Time will be the best healer for this injury. I should be feeling even better by September when cyclocross season begins.

No photo or video would do the Freetown course justice. You just have to experience what it is like to bounce from rock to rock. I was able to ride 99% of the worst sections, but had to occasionally get off. I used my standard rigid Seven Sola SL singlespeed with Niner carbon fork. That’s a pretty harsh setup for a course like this, but it is all I ride. Each of the most difficult sections of the course are named, like sectors of pave in Paris-Roubaix. Here is a description in the words of the Race Director:

You may or may not have seen that people have varying opinions on what “mountain biking” is.  As far as we’re concerned it’s a wide spectrum, and we live on the challenging end of that spectrum.  That being said, this is the fastest and most fun Freetown course that we’ve ever designed.  We start off with the absolute fastest and longest hole shot in NEMTB history, yet somehow the most technical fire road in New England.  Then you’re immediately pummeled by “Screw You Roadie” which leads into “Little Landon Africa” which is super fun.  That’s where the course meets “Pukwudgie Ambush” which is where the Novice class finally sees a rock garden, because Novice skips the first two tech sections.  Then you get some more fire road before hitting a tech trail that takes you to “Bring the Payne” which is really just “The Demotivator” backwards but without the big impossible rock garden.  Then you hit a little more tech before a fire road that leads you to a grassy field finish that may or may not have a Red Bull Flyover that will give you anxiety in front of your friends as they cheer you through the finishing arch if you don’t crash in embarrassing fashion right in front of it.  Then it’s over, unless you’re an Expert and you have to do it again.

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Each of the named sections had a sign marking the beginning and end of each section, complete with the name of that section.

I did the two lap (11 miles each) Expert singlespeed race and pretty much brought up the rear of the field. I wasn’t dead last, but I was pretty close. I started slowly and steadily and attempted to maintain my pace. It would have been nice to have even lap times, and break two hours, but I did a 1:01:42 and then a 1:05:48. I rode within my limits and didn’t take any risks that would have resulted in a fall. It felt good to hammer a bit. Three miles into the second lap, I caught my only rider of the day. Peter Geloso had dropped back and gone into “coasting” mode. He won the singlespeed race on Saturday at Belltown, and was “blown” from the effort. I don’t fault him for cruising in at Freetown. We chatted a bit and then I kept going while he finished about three minutes behind me. I’ll see Pete again at the upcoming West Rock Super Prestige Series. My goal is to get my fitness back to a level where I can battle him on even turf.

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After a weekend away from home and two nights camping out, Shep and I packed quickly and hit the road. We returned to Connecticut through Rhode Island, stopping in Providence for a late lunch/early dinner at Tallulah’s Taquiera which was conveniently located one block from Like No Udder. We’ve been to the Like No Udder ice-cream truck, which was parked out front, but hadn’t been to the shop. It’s been on my “to-do list” for a while now, and was the perfect plant-based reward for a good effort in the woods.

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I’ve got some work to do to get back in shape before cross season, but I have 12 weeks to increase the intensity, and then four months of cross to build my fitness for a return to the national championships, which are in Louisville in December. That’s something to shoot for.

Race Results

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