I first heard about the Black Fly Challenge during one of the Thursday night trail runs that I do. The running group leader mentioned he was going to be doing it. I checked it out, and it sounded like fun. It had been a couple years since I had done the Ramble Around Prattsburg mountain bike race, but that had been a blast. So I signed up.
I debated about which bike to use. I had a home-made cyclocross bike that was build on a Trek 700 frame. But I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to the course. I decided to use my Diamondback mountain bike. I already had some cyclocross type tires mounted on it. I found some cool drop bar ends on the internet, and mounted those on my bike. I also bought an ISM Adamo Peak saddle, since I love the Adamo Race saddles I have on my tri bike and road bike. I got that adjusted over a couple long training rides.
I decided to make the race weekend a camping trip for me, my wife and our dog. I reserved a spot at the Lewey Lake Campground. We arrived Friday afternoon, and set up the tent. Then we headed into town to find some dinner. We ate at a Mexican place. We were not impressed. After dinner, we headed back to the campground, and slept.
I woke up early Saturday morning, and started getting all my stuff ready. I ate half a Subway sandwich. I debated about which jersey to wear…either my Louisville Ironman Jersey, or my Primal Wear X-Ray jersey. I went with the X-Ray jersey. There were a few raindrops, but that was it. I debated about bringing my Sugoi rain jacket, but decided that I would likely just overheat, or have to carry it in my back pocket. I was going to be catching a bus from Indian Lake out to Inlet, and wasn’t sure if stuff would be shuttled back to Indian Lake for me to pick up. I wore some sweat pants and a sweat shirt. When I found that I could leave stuff on the bus, and get it after the race, I was happy.
Chet, a guy I knew from some previous races was also on the bus, and we chatted on the long ride. During the long ride, it started pouring rain. Hard rain! Just coming down in buckets. I was starting to wish I had brought my rain jacket. When we got to Inlet, the rain was still coming down. And it had cooled off. What I wore to race in was bike shorts and a short sleeve cycling jersey. With the rain, and a cold breeze, Everyone else was wearing rain jackets, or at least layers of clothing to keep them warm. I was actually shivering. I was seriously starting to worry about hypothermia, and wondered if I should get back on the bus and ride back to Indian Lake. But I decided I would tough it out and hope that I would stay warm once I started cranking away.
I checked in and got my t-shirt, and number plate (# 268). Would have liked to have had a 5 in my number, but oh well. Boots and Ellen from Yellow Jacket Racing were passing out timing chips. I’ve seen them a lot lately. I put the number plate on my bike with twist ties, and then hung out inside the building to stay warm, and out of the rain. After a while, I went out and sat on the bus which was nice and warm. But eventually the bus driver said he was going to be heading back to Indian Lake. Fortunately the rain slowed, and then finally stopped. I got on my bike and rode it easy around the parking lot, while waiting for the race to start. I was told that racers in the beginner category were supposed to start in the back. I didn’t care. I figure position would sort itself out. I had my Garmin 305 mounted on my handlebars to track my heart rate. I planned to keep my heart rate mostly down in heart rate zone 2-3.
Pretty soon all the riders were lined up, the announcer counted down, and we were off. From the start, we were on paved roads for the first couple miles headed out of town. I started passing people right away. I got a couple pictures of other riders including a guy riding a unicycle, and a dad and two kids riding a three seat tandem. There was a lot of climbing in the first couple miles, and the pack got spread out. There was a nice fast downhill on the last bit of paved road before we hit the dirt road. I flew down that braking just before hitting the dirt road. There were some good downhills on the first part of the dirt section and I flew down these as well hitting close to 30mph. At the 3 mile mark we started climbing again. At around the 4 mile mark I heard a knock sound from my seat, and it tilted forward. Crap! It had slipped one notch. I got out my multitool from the underseat bag, loosened the bolt, repositioned the saddle and tightened the bolt. I kept the tool in my jersey pocket just in case, but didn’t have any more issues with the saddle. From a little past the 5 mile mark, we had about 2.5 miles of fast downhills and I hit speeds close to 30 mph on parts. I brought vanilla-orange Carb Boom gels, and took one every 8 miles. I downed them with the Pepsi I had in my two water bottles. One benefit of all the rain was that there were no black flies to deal with!
There was another uphill at about 7.5 miles, followed by a downhill at mile 9.7. Then there were some flat sections. But these flat sections were anything but easy. The road was covered with this wet sand that just sucked up energy. It was like pedaling uphill even though it was flat or even downhill.
At about mile 13 we started a long steady climb up Wakely Mountain. This lasted until about mile 21 and was followed by a long downhill. I saw some signs that posted the speed limit at 15mph. I laughed and mumbled “Kiss my a$$”. Just then I passed a cop in an SUV parked on the side of the road. I waved at him, and then proceeded to go flying down the hill. I hit speeds at over 30 mph on these rocky dirt roads. It was awesome! Being able to bunny hop over large rocks was a very useful skill here! It gradually turned into rolling downhills. I passed a lot of people in the last 10-15 miles of the race. Where my cyclocross tires inflated at 85psi sucked in the wet sand, they were great on hard packed dirt.
I let out a whoop as I passed Wakely Dam because I knew where I was! Then there were a couple photographers just around the corner. I passed a water stop at about the 29 mile mark and they said only 10 miles to go! At about the 32 mile mark, we were back on pavement. Then my 85psi tires rocked and I slowly started picking off mountain bikes. I just kept spinning the pedals consistently. When I came to a good downhill, I would pretty much lay on the handlebars with my shoulders resting on the grips. I loved flying down the hills! Then I passed a signed that said one mile to go. I was pushing at this point. The course narrowed to the shoulder of the road. I managed to pick off a girl on a cyclocross bike in the last 100 yards or so. I finished the race in 2:54.29. I found my wife who said she got a picture of me crossing the finish line.
Chet finished not too long after me. We rode our bikes over to the bus, and got our stuff. We talked about upcoming races, and then headed back to the cars. I loaded my bike up. Then I went in checked out my results and headed for the food. I bought and ate a couple hamburgers.
Then my wife and I headed back to the campground and I took a long hot shower and changed into some fresh clothes. Then we headed back into town and got some dinner at Willie’s BBQ. This place was pretty good. Good food, decent prices and friendly service. Then we headed back to the campground and pretty much stayed in the tent the rest of the night as it started raining again. We got up early the next morning, packed up our stuff and headed home.
I am hoping to come back and do the race again next year. They change the direction of the race every year, so next year it will go from Indian Lake to Inlet. I think the course might change a little bit as someone mentioned some single track when it goes in that direction. I am hoping to buy a true cyclocross bike before then.
Here is my Garmin data: