Karl’s Kaleidoscope race takes place way down in south western Virginia in Hungry Mother State Park. It’s just outside the town of Marion VA and is a short drive out of town on a crooked road.
I headed down after work on Friday afternoon not knowing if I would hit much traffic on the 4hr drive out 64 and down 81. Luckily there were no snags and I got to my Hotel just after 10pm. I settled in with a couple of beers, plenty of water, and studied maps of the race course while Avatar played on the TV to keep me company.
In the morning it was surprisingly cold and I really had to be careful not to spill my coffee as I fought off involuntary shivers while outside walking back to my room. I ate a quick waffle and got suited up, adding my spring cold gear to the mix.
Arriving at race check in, it was clear this was a small grass roots race, with a very modest amount of people showing up, maybe 30 or 40. However, there was no lack of talent and super fast racers. There was also no lack of swag as the race packet was full of goodies and plenty more could be grabbed from sample bins. I talked with Quadsworth about his recent Cohutta 100 victory and said ‘hi’ to other fast folks from the Shenandoah valley.
After a chilly warm up, we lined up at the start and soon took off on the groomed trails in Hungry Mother park. The morning scenery was awesome as our train of racers skirted the lake covered in a mist of clearing fog. Soon we made some turns and headed into rhododendron flanked trails that rolled up and down the hillsides surrounding the lake.
Shooting down and around the bench cut and off camber corners covered in a fine loose scree kept me on my toes, and moderate rolling climbs got the heart rate up. I kept ebbing and flowing to the pace of the riders in front of me as we played cat and mouse, zooming around the park.
Next up was a series of road and gravel sections that led to an intermediate piece of single track that connected us to the mountain lollipop section of the course. The trail in this section was wet from the week’s previous rain filtering down the mountain side and there were many creek crossing. I felt just like I was riding familiar sections of trails from Pisgah. Pretty wet and muddy, but familiar and fun. After popping out of that trail section, I hammered away on more gravel road and fueled up for the big climb.
Ascending the mountain proved much more pleasant than I had anticipated and It felt good to be rolling the long moderate climb in the big ring. Near the top the fire road started to yield to trail and the descent was soon to follow.
Initially the trail was hard to even see as the descent began, but luckily some sheriff’s tape marked the way. It must have been a crime scene because I was ready to murder the descent.
The top portion of the downhill had lots of gnarly rock sections and a few surprise chutes of trail that were a little exposed on the left. Soon, this gave way to fast and obviously water chewed sections of trail lined in purple flowering rhododendron. Fast and beautiful.
Nearing the bottom, I took a right fork and dispatched a series of fire road connectors to more single track that now had a Pennsylvania feel. Before I knew it, I was rolling on the paved road back into Hungry Mother park and was soon crossing the finish. Lots of great food, good beer, and fun swapping stories and talking riding with a bunch of cool mountain bikers.