When I saw that registration for Boggs 8 Hour mountain bike race had oppened up, I thought no way will I be able to go this year. The prospect of having free time to go race mountain bikes has unfortunately not been very realistic for me as I just opened up a bike shop (Swell Bicycles) at the end of January. Given the ever-growing popularity of this great event, the available spots filled quickly and I figured I’d have to wait until next year.
That was until my friend Sasha Magee came by to check out my shop and when the upcoming race was mentioned I told him that I had missed registration and was wondering if he knew anyone looking for a partner. Turned out he was! Sasha was racing as part of a two-person single speed team but his partner had broken their collarbone and he now needed a replacement. After figuring that I really could get coverage for the weekend, I started making arrangements to go.
Top ranking on the list of was figuring out what bike I would ride. You see I had sold my previous single speed mountain bike to help fund starting Swell Bicycles. I have been a devout rider of 650b wheeled mountain bikes for several years so I began looking for a frame that would allow me to run this wheel size. The Soma B-Side immediately rose to the top of the potential options since it is steel, reasonably priced, could be set up with gears, and looks great. Sure I would love to have a custom frame made for my by Cameron Falconer, but that will have to be in the future.
With in a day the B-Side was built up and slaying trails on Mt. Sutro. I was impressed with how well it handled and the confidence I immediately felt. I could believe how well it cornered!
Fast forward to two weeks later and Sasha, Kelly (his partner), and I were on our way up to Boggs Demonstration Forest. The race takes place in a park on Boggs Mountain, which is in the area of Clear Lake. The nearby town of Cobb feels pretty rural with tough men and even tougher women. It takes about three hours to get there and for a change we arrived with plenty of daylight to set up and unwind. After navigating the campground, we climbed up to the Super Pro campsite. There we found the one and only Murphy Mack and about 20 members of his Super Pro team.
First order of business was getting my tent set up and then having dinner. I brought qunuia, steamed vegetables, and avocado to eat. While it was tempting to hang out with the Super Pro crowd and drink into the night, I opted to retire early. The night after the race seemed a better option for campfire time.
The 5:30am alarm came as early as I expected. My typical pre-race meal is a 24oz. smoothie consisting of green juice, coconut juice, yogurt, flax oil, chia seed, avocado, and brown rice protein mix. I also have a Nana Joe’s Swell bar to add some solid food with more carbs and fats. The next most important part of my morning is getting a huge cup of coffee brewed. Once things starting moving a conversation on the big white phone leaves me with time to warm up on the fire road climb that the race starts with.
In recognition of joining Sasha’s team I had offered to start the race. We expected to be able to get 11 laps in during the 8 ½ hours of racing and we decided to take turns riding 2 laps each before switching to alternating laps to finish. Thanks to the brilliant move of Dustin White, I join him in lining up along side the packed mass of hundreds of riders and we are well situated at the front of the pack. And we’re off like a Tasmanian Devil complete with mini tornado of dust surrounding us.
My first lap goes pretty well and I’m feeling strong. Then something happens over lap two where I gradually start feeling sluggish. My second lap is considerably slower leading me to believe I got a little carried away at the start. I exchange with Sasha and return to camp to stretch, change, and eat. Checking my chain I’m relieved to discover it wasn’t entirely me sucking. Turns out: my chain tension was a bit on the tight side and I get to work readjusting it.
Crucial to a racing on a team is never loosing track of your calculation of when you teammate will come through ready to exchange. I just finishing some Honey Stinger Chews when Sasha comes in and I’m off for another 2 laps. Confidence in my bike motivates me to ride strong and I’m feeling good again. I spin as fast as I can up the gradual first climb and hit the single track with ferocity. My Soma B-Side slays the fast flowing trails and though I’m riding a completely rigid set up, I have no problem holding my own on the descents.
Another exchange and I stop by to check the current standings. I’m pleased to see that we are currently 3rd in our category and second place is really close. And when Sasha rolls in for our next exchange he has just barely gotten us in front of the former second place team! I ride my next lap with our competition right behind me but when I follow the rider in front of me into taking a turn too soon and briefly get off course he come charging by. Back on course I give it everything I’ve got to get back up to his wheel. I come into the start/finish line a couple seconds behind and hope that Sasha will have another strong lap.
We have now done 5 laps each and I wait for Sasha to roll though and see if he’s pumped to keep going or wants to switch. Sure enough he has crushed his lap and put us back in the 2nd place spot but wants me to finish. The motivation to hold on is strong and I begin the lap right behind Matthias Behrens, solo single speed racers extraordinaire. His pace is perfect and I spend almost the entire lap following him. Until we hit the main climb and I decide to ride at my own pace and not risk the cramps that I feel coming on. My decision proves a smart one and I finish my lap with plenty of time to spare to retain our position.
This marks my third podium at Boggs, all in the two-person single speed category. While the competition has gotten stronger over the years, thanks to Sasha’s strong riding Short Guys with Russian Names (our team) are on the podium. Beers, food, and shenanigans around the campfire follow.
The following morning I start the day with a nice breakfast and meet up with folks for a nice recovery ride around the park. I feel so fortunate to be in such an amazing place and able to enjoy a leisurely day of riding and hanging out with friends before returning to San Francisco. Maybe next year I can get my special lady friend, Vanessa Christie, to race with me as a coed team.