Where to begin … 75 miles of technical trail riding with 6,500 ft of elevation change in two days. Oh, and it rained before, during, and after. Luckily good trails and good company overpowered any damping effects on our trip. Eight riders from Evansville Mountain Bike Association and Dan’s Comp Factory Race team left the rolling hills of Indiana for two days in the Chattanooga mountains. First up, the 5 points 50 mountain bike ride on Lookout Mountain.
5 points 50 is an epic mountain bike RIDE of hodge- podge trails and road sections linked together to give you 55 (not 50) miles of “you voluntarily signed yourself up for this” torture. A majority of the riding is done on the 5 points trail system and Lula Lake Land Trust property. 2013 was the first year for this event and I was pleasantly surprised then, as I was again this year by the thorough execution by SORBA and local volunteers to make this a well- structured and exciting event.
I will reemphasis that 5 points 50 is a ride, though plenty of people race it in hopes of winning the offered prizemoney. Last year my goal was to survive the 55 mountainous miles and finished just under 6 hours. This year I was in race mode and wanted to knock 30 minutes off my time and possibly move up from an 8th place finish to 5th. My mental resolve was good, I was riding well in the mud, I felt adequately fueled and only spent maybe 6 minutes total at the sag stops. Last year, I’m pretty sure I pulled up a lawn chair at 2 of the 3 stops! I rode up many more inclines this go around, came out fierce on the initial 6 miles of road riding, pushed through the graded switchbacks and rocky fire roads, and recovered much quicker. The last 5 miles were ridiculously brutal much like last year, but I felt strong up until that point. I was serious about my training too, one could say I spent the whole year in preparation for this event. I significantly improved my nutrition, learned to love Olympic lifts, bought a *&#@$% road bike, dropped a few pounds, and increased my monthly mileage all of which would suggest that I am a stronger rider this year.
I know that I have become a stronger rider, which is why I was quite disheartened to see my official finish time was only 6 minutes faster than last years. I did not achieve my goals. I did finish 6th feeling well prepared and fairly human. But here’s the caveat; it was wet. We started the race in the rain and though the sun came out putting the temperature in the high 70s, many places on the trails were a sloppy mess. At one point my 1x chain ring had so much mud on it my chain slide right off and down the crank arm. I wasn’t even riding through rough terrain to initiate the derailing! Downhill riding was somewhat limited due to greasy turns and a handful of deep puddles. Wet roots, rocks, and steep climbs covered in wet leaves certainly stole precious muscle expenditure which cumulated into added minutes. The 5+ water crossings that I distinctly remember riding through in 2013, were now much deeper and plenty treacherous just to walk through. Additionally, the 20 foot river crossing that I gleefully rode through last year was easily knee- deep on this attempt.
So there’s the subjective information to point to slower times but let’s look at the hard data. The first and second place male finishers were both slower this time around, 22 minutes and 13 minutes respectively. Less than 4 of the 20 female riders from 2013 returned for this bout and the fastest female time was 32 minutes slower in these conditions. Myself and a friend that I race against in the Kentucky Point Series xc races were about the only ones I found who managed to put down faster times. I guess that means I can give myself a break on my finishing time. But it also hangs a huge carrot out for competing in next year’s 5 points 50 ride!! Overall I was pleased with my performance and was so grateful to have so many friends take on the challenge with me. Additionally, I’m extremely thankful to Dan’s Comp for getting my bike in perfect working order for this epic event!
Part 2 of Conquering the Mountains of Chattanooga, detailing our adventure on Raccoon Mountain the next day (yes we rode 20 miles the next day!) will be posted soon!