“Hobby Park” XC Race at Winston-Salem, NC

The Southern Classic Series cross country mountain bike race in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is held in a venue named Hobby Park.  The park likely got its name because if you have a hobby, this is your park.  It has a runway for radio controlled airplanes, two tracks for radio controlled cars, a long paved hill for soap box derby racing, nice trails for running and or hiking, and last, but not least, it has a great mountain bike trail.

Matt Podium Hobby Park 480

Great company on the podium: Jim Frith – 1st place and Randy Shields – 2nd.

The race course is 6.7 miles in length beginning and ending at the model airplane runway and is thickly wooded with a mix of pine and deciduous trees, as well as all manner of vegetation.  The trail surface itself is for the most part hard-packed, dark, loamy soil that is riddled with tree roots — probably one of the more rooty trails I’ve ridden, possibly only equaled by the Dauset trails in Jackson, Georgia and Owl’s Roost in Greensboro, North Carolina.

A few things made this race a tough one.  First, it was hot.  The temperature was not that bad — only 86 degrees — but it was close to 100% humidity and there was not so much as a whiff of a breeze.  The thick woods blocked any air movement and the vegetation was all wet from the recent rains.  Add to that a noon race time as opposed to the normal 9:30 AM start, and a couple of hours of pedaling at race pace and you have some serious heat.

Another thing was the pounding.  Unlike many racecourses where there are many opportunities to recover, Hobby Park never gave you a break.  You were either climbing hard, or trying to hang onto your bike while bouncing down rooty trails on the way to your next climb.  Unrelenting.  Just when you thought your heart was going to explode and your legs were going to fail, the trail turned down and your hands, arms, shoulders, and core got hammered to the brink of failure.

When the whistle blew about 8 minutes after noon, our wave took off.  Across the runway, through some grass, then a more than 90 degree left turn onto pavement and a slight downhill.  After about 50 yards of downhill, the fun began as we climbed the soap box derby hill to the very top and the entrance to the single track.  It was a brutal climb and meant to thin out the riders before entering the tight single track trails.

Amazingly, I was in the lead initially, until about halfway up soap box hill when Jim Frith passed me.  Soon after he passed so did Randy Shields.  We went into the woods in that order: Jim, Randy, and me, and after two hours suffering, we finished in that same order.  I finished third in a field of five and was happy.  There was nothing spectacular to report on — no crashes, no mechanical drama, just pain and suffering and a smile when it was finally over.

Here are some of my numbers from the race:

  • Avg HR: 92 % of Max

  • Max HR: 116 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 210 W

  • Max Power: 1,224 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 219 W

  • Normalized Power (NP): 223 W

  • Intensity Factor (IF): 0.861

  • Training Stress Score (TSS): 143.0

  • Work: 1,464 kJ

Here are my numbers from last week’s race:

  • Avg HR: 86 % of Max

  • Max HR: 136 % of Max

  • Avg Power: 188 W

  • Max Power: 1,196 W

  • Max Avg Power (20 min): 224 W

  • Normalized Power (NP): 226 W

  • Intensity Factor (IF): 0.873

  • Training Stress Score (TSS): 197.2

  • Work: 1,752 kJ

My average heart rate is back where I want it to be (over 90% of max) but my 30-minute break due to my mechanical problem probably factored into the lower number from the previous race.  Max heart rate looked good.  My max 20-minute power and my normalized power were pretty consistent, as were Intensity Factor and Total Stress Score, so I felt pretty good about my numbers.

After finishing third, I’m still leading the series but Jim is closing in fast.  I expect Jim Frith and Randy Shields to both finish ahead of me after we do a few more races, but only time will tell.  Right now I’m just having fun racing my bike and trying to improve.  I do find some comfort in that it is easier for a relatively new rider like me to improve a lot than for seasoned veterans like Jim and Randy — I have a lot further to go than they do.

Next week is my last off week before Nationals so I hope to do some local riding as well as relaxing.  After that it is off to Clemson, SC, Helen GA, Woolwine, VA, and Ft. Payne, AL before making the trek to Bear Creek Mountain Resort at Macungie, PA for the 2013 Cross Country Nationals.