Herron Hammer- 2012 Race Report
Ben Parsons Team Sportsman Ski Haus/Hammer endorsed “Pro” racer
The season is off and running, the anticipation has come to fruition, and rubber is meeting the road, or trail actually. After months of going on long, slow, cold rides, suffering through yet another cold and wet spring, and early mornings in the gym, the time has come to let the delusions of grandeur come toppling down with a nice slice of reality… you can’t win ‘em all. But, you might get lucky and win one! And one, I will take with much contentment.
After kicking of the Montana Off Road season with my least favorite race ever (the Unravel the Scratchgravel in Helena), it looked like I was going to have to train my mental fortitude as much as my power at lactate threshold. I dislike (mom said I can’t say hate) this race very much because it never fails to make me feel like I should be racing 13 year olds, not the cat 1/pro field. With short rolling climbs, an advertised “70% double track”, and lack of any technical challenges, it is my nemisis of a mountain bike race. So I figure there’s no better way to kick off the season with some “character building”. Which is exactly what happened after limping in one off the podium and what felt like eons behind race winner and recent Colorado implant Travis Scheefer. Driving home from the weekend, I was actually quite positive knowing that it was to be expected, and really, I felt pretty decent for my first race effort of the season. I was charged up for the first big goal of the season, the Herron Hammer, a local race touting $1000 purse and a shot for local glory and bragging rights.
Two weeks later, strongmen and women from around the state converged on a perfect spring day for a couple hours of sick singletrack racing on the newly constructed trails of the Foys to Blacktail organization. I had been doing some recon work on the trail the last few weeks, and felt confident that it would be a good course for me, granted I could hang with the leaders on the climbs. Though I consider myself a climber, I usually don’t sharpen my goat hoofs til July or August, and I prefer climbs that resemble more of a wall than a gradual ramp. Looking around at the comp at the line, I said a quick prayer and hoped to simply enjoy the experience of racing. The first lap is usually anything buy enjoying racing as the legs are in shock of the lactic flooding and nerves are high while jockeying for position and loosing contact with the leaders. I kept calm though knowing I would catch up on the decent by employing my jedi trail powers coupled with local knowledge. Sure enough, 5 or 6 of us started the next lap with the young phenom of Helena (Landon Beckner) throwing down the watts and putting us all in the ringer while catching local fast dad Matt Butterfield. Phil and Mully (Cling Muhlfield) started loosing contact as the screws kept tightening, and I sucked wheel as hard as I could on singletrack while climbing. Reaching the top of the 2nd lap, I cut around young Landon and Butterfield and said “Matty, lets sink like stones and drop this youngin… He’s too strong!” Matt and I hit the 3rd lap with a good amount of breathing room, and then I was left to mentally tell myself that if I could just hang on to the last lap, I would have what it takes to joust Butterfield for the win. Sure enough, we started up the climb of the 4th lap together, almost rolling at a conversational pace. Two thirds of the way up Matt asked, “Is this our 3rd lap?”, to which I thought, “He must not want this as bad as I do, attack now and cash in the chips!” I dropped a couple gears, locked out the Lefty, and swung back and forth over the bars trying to eek out an attack from my rapidly seizing quads. I managed to gain a few bike lengths going into the final singletrack climb and knew I had it in the bag barring any flats or freak incidences. Descending the three miles of swooping singy to the finish was a great feeling, being able to enjoy the fruits of hard work and suffering while being one with bike, trail, and lycra. Coming through the finish line, I’m pretty sure I raised my arms, which may be unwarranted in a Montana mountain bike race, but I didn’t care, it was an amazing feeling pulling off a hard fought win in front of the home crowd.
Unfortunately, I find myself a little complacent after winning a race and I think I’m in for a brutal awakening this weekend lining up with hungry racers wanting revenge and an all but guaranteed London 2012 mountain bike Olympian! Ah well, enjoy ‘em while ya can, cause next go around, a chunk of humble pie will go down like a box of rocks. Happy trails and enjoy the season, think about how much you’ve all ready invested into it, might as well enjoy it win, lose, or draw!