Sunday, December 17, 2023

Secret Squirrel MTB Race


Time to Pony Up

Many many moons ago a fellow by the name of David Alden-St. Pierre reached out to me and asked if I had wanted to be a part of Racer-X. It was described to me as "bikes, bikers, biking PLUS sarcasm, beer, and tomfoolery." Naturally, I was all in. 

 Looking back at all those years I could argue that accepting this invitation was the best and worst decision of my life. Much like choosing to work in healthcare, but that is another post for another time. I've thoroughly enjoyed our trips, regional charity rides, and local rips.  This journey took me from twenty-six through twenty-nine, from hardtails to full suspension, to fat and then mid-fat only to end up back on twenty-nine where I shall stay. I've pedalled some real epics in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Despite all of these adventures, there still was one major box that was left unchecked.

How could I have been a part of Racer-X for all these years and not have raced a single event?! An imposter perhaps? Hell, I even wore the Racer-X merch with pride, despite looking like a sausage in a meat skin. All the excuses, lies, and deception would finally come to an end. I took the plunge and registered for the Secret Squirrel MTB Race at Massasoit State Park in Taunton, Massachusetts. 

Truth be told, I was late to the game and the only category open was the Novice Men 45 plus. Likely story right? David, in a delicate kinda way, called me a sandbagger. I'll take that as a compliment buddy. It was to be one lap at approximately 6.5 miles of what looked to be fast, flowy, undulating terrain. My weapon of choice was my recently acquired BMC Two-Stroke aluminum hardtail. My only reservation was the entry-ish level Rock-Shox Judy fork, but the rest of the build would do just fine.

 Upon arrival at the campground, I saw this dude on his bike which was on some type of mount and rollers. He looked like he was preparing to make a name for himself. Minute by minute the lycra started to flood the area. Everyone dressed the part looking like they were destined for the podium. 

It was almost go time and I realized that I had done nothing to prepare. No course pre-ride (I like surprises), no stretching, and no carb-loading the night before. I also clicked off a ten-mile fastish paced ride with my Prep Team the evening prior. A total recipe for success!

I positioned myself in the top third of the pack. The whistle blew and off we went rocketing up this short paved section before quickly dropping into singletrack. Maybe one minute into it, my legs were revolting and my mouth was like a giant cotton ball. My higher self kept yelling "You can't suck, don't f****n suck!" After maybe five or six additional riders passed me, I had snapped out of it. I focused on my breathing and started putting some power down. 

I realize what I am about to describe makes it sound like I was some type of dynamo at the UCI Championships. Yes, it was the Secret Squirrel, but role with it. Once I settled in I found myself behind three racers who appeared to be going at a medium pace. Channeling my inner Nino Schurter I went to work. Calling out "on your left" made quick work of them. I also passed a dude running my bike up this unclimbable steep section. The poor bastard looked like he had a one-way ticket on the struggle bus. Side note: I need to work on the whole mounting/dismounting thing. 

After a quick sandy flat segment, I was now twisting and turning on some very tight singletrack and right on this guy's rear tire. Perhaps a half a mile in and he still wouldn't let me pass. I called him out, in a very non-woke kinda way, and took the next opening to barely squeeze by him. For the next maybe ten minutes I was flying solo until I barely caught a glimpse of the next racer ahead of me. And then came a number of short, steep rooty climbs. It was here that I started picking off racers one by one. See Dave, all of your abuse in those early years paid off.

It was back on some double-track for a mile or so. I locked out my fork and stepped on the gas. The breathing was heavy, and the nifkin inflamed, but come hell or high water I was going to finish top ten. The course turned swoopy and flowy and now I was starting to have a crap ton of fun! I passed three more racers and continued to fly through more root gardens that contoured a lake. Very scenic. 

Around the forty-minute mark, just up ahead by the beach, I could see the finish. I was feeling it, baby! One more racer fell victim to my late heroics and I crossed the finish in front of a small crowd. I vaguely recall a random woman clapping for me. Once I collected myself, I was greeted by a giant food truck serving pizza in a giant waffle cone. But I respectfully declined and went to the men's room instead.

The NEYC had set up the course the day before.


Now back at the car I had a few minutes to reflect before heading home. I remember this one point where I was bombing this downhill section and smiling ear to ear. The speed, the turns, and the climbs were all a smashing good time! I might have to fancy myself another one of these races and proudly represent the Racer-X name. 

Oh, about the results. I ended up taking 6th place out of 29. Not too shabby for this former imposter. Until next time my fellow Racer-X'ers...

 Keep it Classy and Keep it Real,

Jason (J-Bone) Fitzgerald





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