Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weeping Willow, Ipswich, MA, EFTA 2011

Chains of broken time...I mean times of broken chains...

A last minute family scheduling change meant I would not be able to attend Domnarski Farm this year. I was looking forward to racing it not only because it's a great climbing race, but also because last year, half way through the second lap, I broke my chain.  My hope was to try to do both laps under 2 hours. But since I had to give this race up, at the last minute I decided to make up for it by doing the Weeping Willow, EFTA race in Ipswich, MA.

I had never raced it and had no idea what to expect, but thought it should be a cake walk compared to Glocester Grind.  Got to the race on time (wtf!), and registered for one of the few remaining spots.  Limit was 400 racers and they were close to it! Our expert Vet II field was 43 deep and had heard there were quite a few roadies who had dusted off their mtbikes for this. I don't think I've ever been in a Cat 1 field that deep (granted this is only my second year as a cat 1 guy!)

The warm up pre-ride showed the course to start out w/ about 1 mile of fire roads before entering a twisty single track w/ some pretty slick roots.  I was actually surprise at how slick some of the turns were.  Also it looked like passing was going to be difficult once on the single track.  Had it not been for the wet roots, and some slick mud in the corners, the course would have been a very fast twisty short up and down non technical race.  Quite fun actually and reminded me of the Root 66 Hodges Dam course.  It was going to be critical to be close to the top 10 when entering the single track to avoid being held back.

The start went w/out a hitch and the long fire road allowed the group to be fairly well sorted out.  I found someone to draft behind all through the fire roads and when we entered the single track, it looked like I was at least in the top 15.  About a 1/2 mile into the single track I was feeling comfortable with the pace. There was a line of riders strung out through the single track, and the group was tight.  There really was no room to dab w/out being passed by the four/ five guys behind me. I needed to stay loose, and error free.  Then it started!  Every time I shifted up, the derailleur would not move to the cog picked, skip, and would take several pedal rotations before before settling in. Barrel adjustments did not seem to make a difference.  Then came a steep short climb.  Sadly at that point my concern was more w/ not giving up any spots than it was w/ my derailleur not picking a stupid cog to stay on.  While the chain was still skipping I tried to just power up the hill and was just about to crest the top, when I lost all resistance at the pedals. The chain had broken.  This was a two day old new XTR chain!  Fhack!  Now what?   I had a quick link but no chain tool to remove the mangled link.

ya know I'm concentrating hard when my tongue is sticking out

Never mind that I had driven 2 hours up, paid $40 in fees and dog knows how much on gas, to ride all of 3 miles!  The real dilemma was that I had not been on a proper training ride since the Glocester Grind race and REALLY needed to get in a good work out.  Fhack!  Out of desperation for any form of exercise I decided to just run the race as fast as I could.

After about two miles of "running", I found a guy lying on the side of the trail w/ someone else putting his bike back together.  I stopped to also offer some help and found out he had crashed and hurt his shoulder pretty badly.  After getting him walking in the right direction, and since there was no way he could ride anymore, he offered me his Sram chain (got to love those quick links). Though at least 20 minutes had gone by since breaking my chain and there would be no way to catch anyone in my group, this would give me at least the chance to finish the race, and get in a good ride!

I finished the race in 2 hours and came in dead last.  It was quite a good course actually.  Not a lot of climbing but twisty and fun and though not technical per say, it did command your attention if you did not want to wash out in the turns or on the wet roots.  I'll certainly be back for it next year! Hopefully w/ a fully functioning drive train...

Lesson learned from this race: if the chain is skipping, run...run up those damn hills!  Loosing a couple of places is better than DNFing!


  1. I'd make a snarky comment about not having these problems on a singlespeed, but that would only jinx me...

  2. You are right though, some days, like during this race, I look at single speeders w/ a certain envy! Sadly my legs depend on them bail out cogs on the back!

  3. I share your frustration with drivetrain issues, and one of these days I'll probably give in to the singlespeed allure. Nice job sticking it out to finish the race.

  4. Them there Shimano chains can be tricky to install.. 100% or fail! SS.. yea, less parts but the ones we do have are crucial! With regards to the bailout gears, riding the SS will make you less dependent on them, SHOCK THE SYSTEM! If it doesn't kill you, it WILL make you stronger. & Why NBX??.. the peeps on the team are awesome, but what is the "team" doing for Syl?