Leesburg Bakers Dozen
Last weekend Chris and I headed to Leesburg, VA to meet up with Adam, Ken, Wes, and John to compete in the 2016 Bakers Dozen offroad relay race. As the name would suggest, it's 13 hours long! Last year Chris raced with Ken and his son Connor in the 3 man open category. This year we switched it up a bit with Ken, Wes, and John racing the ever competitive 40+ 3 man team, and Adam, Chris, and I racing in the co-ed 3 person team.
Watching the forecast for the Saturday of the event was probably more stressful than the event itself! It was calling for rain, snow, chilly temps, and wind. Fortunately, the rain didn't happen, and what snow we got only amounted to flurries. The wind and cold temperatures were with us the whole day, though. But I'd rather deal with that than the wet!
This race was my first ever relay race! With over 20 teams, just in our co-ed category, I knew it had to be a fun time. There were so many awesome mountain bikers in one place!
The location of the Leesburg Bakers Dozen is on an almost 500acre plot of private farm land next to the Potomac. The trail is only open this one time, every year. It meanders through portions of rooty wooded forests, columns of BIG pine trees, and open fields. When riding in the fields from one section of forest to the next, riders were blasted by the wind, and sometimes fought to stay upright. In the woods, the singletrack featured logs, rock drops, and smooth swoopy dirt. You could get moving on this trail, and barely touch your brakes if you didn't want to. I think I was smiling the whole time I was out on my laps, the trail was so much fun! My favorite part was riding through the last section of pine trees. The trees were all lined up in rows upon rows, like huge pillars. They were so close together it was much darker in this section than anywhere else, but when the sun shown through them, the lighting between the trunks was incredible. The trail was clear and smooth through here, as well, and so you could get going 20-30mph easy and not touch your brakes for a good bit! It was exhilarating!
Adam started our team off for the day, and put in the fastest lap times for our team! Our staging area was set up so that we could see our teammates go into the last bit of piney woods section and get the next rider ready without having a chaotic passing of the "baton". Participating the the 3-person team seems to be the most fun way to complete this relay. The other two riders get to hang out and chat while the third person is out on the race course. This year was especially fun with having two Rocktown teams there... More people to empathize with about staying warm and out of the wind while waiting for your turn to ride.
Chris went second for our team, and I went out third. This order worked out for us (maybe for me a little bit more) because I ended up doing 6 laps, whereas Chris and Adam completed 7 laps. I say it worked out well, because Chris and Adam are much better night riders than me, and I was getting very tired. This being my first over 12 hour relay race, staying awake and keeping the energy level high was getting a little challenging as the sun set. The race started at 9am and finished at 10pm. The catch is that your last rider can head back out for another lap, even if it's 9:59pm. And sometimes, the competition does come down to being that close! When that happens the race doesn't officially finish until after 11pm sometimes. Our team was a good 25minutes ahead of 2nd place when I finished my last lap at 9pm, so Adam and Chris focused mainly on not having any mechanicals for their last laps.
My night lap was a surreal experience. It was so quiet. No one really talked to each other when passing; I think mainly from the cold and fatigue, but we also didn't really have to talk. You could hear the shifting of gears and pedaling so clearly in the woods, no one was ever surprised by another rider. And when I left the woods to climb out of the last field, I looked up and saw the last bits of the sun's rays outlining riders going out for their night laps. Everyone's headlamps were twinkling down the trail. It was magical, and I don't think I'll ever forget that moment.
The Rocktown 40+ team of Wes, Ken, and John was great fun to hang out with between laps, and they placed 3rd for their category! We had a good time helping each other exchange the baton between riders. Wes was awesome and made HOT coffee for us several times throughout the day.
I would say, besides trying to stay warm, the most challenging part of the relay race for me was keeping up with calories. I brought all sorts of food and snacks because I didn't know how my body was going to react to racing, resting, and getting more than a whole day's worth of calories in my body for 13 hours. Even with all of the options, I ended up honing in on dried pineapple slices, Salt & Vinegar chips, coffee, Nuun tablets, and rice. Oh, and Adam brought this HUGE honeybaked ham that I think was the savior for both of our teams. The fatty saltiness of that ham was so good, none of us had a hard time getting that down. Haha. We even had one of the solo riders of the day stop by our tent every lap for a piece.
As Chris and Ken finished up their final laps, we broke down camp so we could go hang out at the bonfire to keep warm. It was fun standing around the fire with the other teams as we waited for awards. We were all recapping the day's events. There were some pretty great stories from the other teams. The bike community is such an awesome group of people!
Placing first was a great experience for our team! We were positive and had a blast for the entirety of the day, despite the frigid temperature. Some of us are already scheming up the team rosters for next year's race!
If you are ever in the Leesburg area, make sure to check out Plum Grove Cylcery, who put this race on every year. They're a cool group of people and have an awesome story.
Check out the course map and Kelly's Strava file HERE
Photo Credit to Bruce Buckley