Friday, September 7, 2012

Little Night Race on the Prairie

A few weeks ago I did the Pitch Black Singletrack race at CamRock, part of the WEMS series. I had done the 12 hour race last year but since I've only done a few long rides this year (recovering from a running injury) I just did the 6 hour race.

The weather, at least for the six hour length, was pretty much perfect. Everyone started together at 8 pm with little light left in the sky, the temperature hovering in the low 80's. A band entertained the crowd at the bar which overhangs the start/finish. Everybody was in high spirits.

I'm always surprised at how much easier the trail looks in the dark. I have very poor depth perception, so I've found that the trail lit up by just headlights tends to flatten. Rocks, roots, and divots appear almost as 2D as a pen outline against the dirt. This can lead to bad surprises, for which I am grateful to ride a bike with front suspension. But I discovered that it can also lead to good surprises. At times I took the harder line without realizing it, and found it to be faster than my usual run. So...poor vision for the win!

I also love the prairie at night. The occasional super tall plant peeks up like a head over the densely packed vegetation and the white boneset flowers catch the moonlight and capture the eye. Riding the sweeping prairie trails opens up the sky too, so you can enjoy the stars or in the case of that weekend's race, a moon muddied orange by thin clouds.

One of my favorite things about this race is the party tent on the back edge of the loop. They always play great music and cheer wildly all night. Sometimes they don't have snacks a non-beer-drinker vegetarian might want...but I did have a guy desperately hand me a chocolate filled twinkie on my last lap. I say "desperately" because he jogged after me on the trail and handed it off like a pro support team! Now that's dedication :)

My race was molasses-slow. Pain meant that I took time in the open areas to do rolling stretches since I'm still kind of broken. But oh, it was fun!