What an incredible weekend. Way too much fun packed into a tiny amount of time. This was Hammerfest weekend, so it was time to race.
Shane, Mike, and I left Victoria around 8am Saturday morning, and got to the race course around 10:30. We got geared up, paid for shuttle, then started the long ride to the shuttle pick up point.
Our first run was an easy roll down from the top to the bottom to check out the course. Last year the rumour was the course was to be logged. I took this to mean the entire course. Turned out to only be a small portion. The top section hadn’t changed at all, and that was good. The top part is a fun mix of tight, twisty, and rooty trail the all to quickly spits you out under a power line. The middle section was the part that had been logged, and had changed a lot. I had to concentrate on that part but it wasn’t too difficult to learn, it was just bumpy. Lower down the bottom section was the same as last year.
After our first easy run down, we learned that the XC race was going to close the top section of the DH course since the two paths crossed. I was a little disappointed, but I was comfortable with the top section. I needed to learn the middle section. The rest of our run were from the power lines down to the bottom.
The shuttles were quick. Basically as soon as we finished our run, we jumped into the van, got to the top, unloaded, and zipped to the bottom again. The only downside was that Saturday was hot. Very hot. In less than three hours I had drained my Camelbak. Inside the back of the van was hot and stuffy. In the time it too to get to the top, I had sweat dripping off my face.
Around 4 Shane and I decided to call it quits so we could go register. I felt I had a pretty good handle on the middle section, but I definitely wasn’t riding at race speed just yet.
The course was a lot faster this year because of the new middle section. The old section had more twists and turns to it, and was flatter. Also, the old section used to have a horribly long uphill section in it that just sapped your momentum, and your energy. The uphill in the new trail wasn’t nearly as bad. You could sit and pedal most of the way, and only stand for the last bit.
What was the middle section like? Well, once you get off the uphill bridge, the course was really loose sand with large-ish rocks (3-5 inches in diameter). It was rolling flat for a bit, then it drops. Quickly. On the first steep section, there was a nice step down leading into the first tabletop. Marking the end of the step down was a stump that had been cut to almost dirt level. The first table top wasn’t too bad, but they got bigger. The section kept dropping towards the finish line, and there are 2 more tabletops. The tabletops are fun. Scary but fun. After that, we crossed the road, and were into the lower section (the repeat from last year).
The lower section had a large steep slope into a little gully. Right at the bottom of the gully is a log jump that has caught me out before. Then it is an uphill to a crest, which then drops back down to the road. Crossing the road is a loose uphill climb to the final dscent to the finish line. After a couple big berms there is a small jump, then another step down to the finish line.
Like I said, it was a fun course, but it was way faster than previous years.
While registering, we were supposed to choose our category. We asked the volunteer what category most people were going in, but she didn’t have much info. We ended up choosing beginner since every other year I have done that race I was in beginner. In the end I think I should have put myself into intermediate. Most of the beginner class was significantly younger than Shane and I. However, I wasn’t racing to be competitive, I was racing to have fun.
My race run on Sunday was pretty good. I was very happy with it. I cleaned the course, but had a couple bobbles on the way down. For the first time I cleared the step down before the first table top, but I think it was the landing of that table top that my front tire washed out a little, and I got a bit squirrely. The second bobble was on the lower section, in the bottom of the gully, just after the log crossing. I prejumped the log, cleared it, but slid a little wide on the trail getting too close for comfort to a stump on the right hand side.
In all, my race run was my fastest run of the weekend. It was also my most fun run of the weekend. results are here (pdf), and you can see I placed 6th out of 47 in beginner. If I had been in Intermediate, I would have placed 18 out of 32.
Any way you look at it, I had a great time. I always do at Hammerfest! Plus, this year I didn’t crash and hurt myself! Bonus.