Marathon National Championships

I’ve always been fond of Augusta, GA because it’s where the greatest golf tournament in the world takes place, The Masters. In fact, it took place there just two weeks ago. This weekend though it was all about the MTB trails and the USA Marathon National Champs.

I flew into Atlanta Tuesday night with the Specialized mechanic John and we drove the few hours to Augusta in the dark. When we woke up on Wednesday morning it was pouring. I’ve been in some torrential rain storms but this one took the cake and it didn’t let up until late afternoon. When it finally stopped I took the opportunity to get out and check out part of the course. One of my favorite things about marathon racing is you get to see and ride a lot of different terrain, unlike the XC format where you ride the same 12 minute loop over and over. Thursday and Friday I also spent checking out different sections of the course and I still hadn’t seen all of it by the time the race rolled around.

The course was sixty miles and consisted of two main loops in a figure eight with the start/finish right in the center. The first half of the race used most of the Bartram trail and was about 90% single track. There wasn’t much elevation gain but it required full concentration since it was fast through the trees with tons of corners. The corners were hard pack covered in pine needles so they were super slippery and we all had a few moments out there. The second loop had a bit more elevation gain, some fire road, dirt road and double track. It was still mostly single track and it was the more technical of the two loops with lots of creek crossings and downed logs to hop at speed.

I ran the following the setup: S-Works Epic WC rear sus: 150 psi, RS1 85 psi, XX1 36 front ring, Renegade 1.95 Control front 25 psi, rear 28 psi. I also used a normal shorts jersey combo and the prevail.

We took off for the title race 1:30 on Saturday afternoon under sunny skys, temperatures in the mid seventies and almost no humidity. A perfect Georgia day. At the end of the first big loop we were a huge group of 13 riders. I figured we would be a big group with so much single track and no sustained pedaling sections there was no place to break it up. If someone did attack on the single track it was so tight they would eventual blow a corner and the whole group would come back together.

We rolled it though the start finish and out on the second big thirty mile loop. We broke up a little bit on the dirt road connector out to the next single track section but it really blew apart when Bishop was leading and bobbled through a stream crossing in the next single track. It caused an accordion effect in the group, he got clear and I quickly joined him. We eked out a small gap in the single track and then opened it up when we popped out on the road for the only sustained pedaling section on the course. We stayed locked together for the loop through Mistletoe park and back on the same road section before the final single track in Keg Creek.

I made the first mistake following JB through a creek crossing I smashed into a root knot coming out, stopped dead, twisted my bars and heard a horrible carbon sound. I got going quick, the bike was OK and I brought JB back after a few minutes. He was the next to bobble when he slid out in pine straw covered corner. We tangled but I got going right away and that was the last I would see of him. I rode the final ten to fifteen minutes of single track before popping out on the dirt road for the three mile ride back to the finish. I figured we would end up in a sprint but I seized the opportunity and rolled in with over a minute lead. It was lucky for me I was able to get away because I started to cramp right when I hit the dirt road. The race took around 4:05, I thought it might be right at 4 hrs but it was just over.

It feels awesome to lock in my forth Marathon title in as many years but the coolest part is all the different kinds of courses we’ve had. You might think Augusta with only 2,500 ft of climbing in sixty miles would be the easiest and Sun Valley with over 8,000 ft @ 6,000 ft+ in fifty miles would be the hardest, nope. With long climbs come tempo riding, settling in and long descents for recovery. With tight rolling trails you can never rest and are constantly pedaling. I bet I pedaled nearly twice as much this year then I did last year because there is no place to coast for any longer then a few seconds.

I drank a lot of Clif shot, had one Clif bar, a sleeve of Shot Blocks and a lot of Gels.

After the race we had to go the place that started in Georgia and was in our hotel parking lot. It wasn’t as good as I had hoped but when in Augusta….

I can’t believe that marathon racing isn’t bigger in the US. I love XC racing and have done it for a long time but with the marathon you get to see so much more of the places you travel to. You also get to ride for three to four times as long as a typical XC so you don’t feel too bad about hitting the Whole Foods desert case.

OK, maybe you still feel bad.

We had a great time in Augusta, the trails were fun, the people were all very friendly and they had an awesome downtown with tons of good restaurants, bars and shops. I would highly suggest it for racing, riding or just hanging out.

I wonder what’s happening in Durango…….

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