7th Annual Austin Rattler 2017 Race Report by Craig Maatta

Austin Rattler 2017 Start (photo courtesy of Athlinks)

The Austin Rattler is held at the Rocky Hill Ranch (RHR) located in Smithville and is a qualifier for the Blue Print for Athletes Leadville 100 MTB.  The Course is a 20.7 mile loop times 3 that is a combination of winding single track and jeep roads.  While the event itself was an opportunity to challenge myself, meet and hang out with likeminded MTB riders I was there for the coin.  The coin is the ticket to enter the Leadville 100 MTB race.

The Rattler is allocated 100 slots: 50% of the slots were distributed based on performance to the top % of participants in that age group.  The other 50 % were distributed through the on-site event lottery for qualifying Rattler finishers (under 7 hours).  I did not care any way I could get in was good with me.

In 2016 I participated in the Austin Rattler 50 plus category, riding my Niner RDO.  Not knowing what to expect and never have done a MTB ride that long before I finished in 5 hours 38 minutes, suffering severe leg cramps and exhaustion in which I had to get off the bike twice to  stretch. Never the less I was hooked on these long rides, further motivated by going to Leadville that following August to spectate and support team member Joy Brott in her quest to complete the event.

This year 2017 was going to be my year and I had a plan.  The Plan to get to the start line early with the goal of going hard to get to the single track to avoid the bottle neck.  After I got through I was to settle in and average 12 mph or better with an overall time under 5 hours.  The other objective was not to get thirsty or hungry in order to avoid cramping, so I carried 2 bottles of water in my camel back along with protein/electrolyte drink in my bottle cage and would refill each lap.

Bib #392: ready for the start of the Rattler! (photo courtesy of Athlinks)

I arrived at RHR at 0600 for an 0800 start, and, at 0700 I noticed that riders were already lining up at the start so I went over and got my spot about a 3rd of the way from the front. With over 400 riders that participated I was glad I got there early.  While at the start I met a guy from Kentucky who had driven in a week earlier and had told me he a pre rode and was warning me about all the dangers (I think he was trying to psyche me out).  As we approached 0800 they did some announcements followed by the National Anthem which always is cool and pumps me up and before I knew it, we were off.

The first lap I was feeling good my average was good and I got to the single track and though with no problems.  I felt strong and finished the lap in 1 hour 33 minutes averaging over 13 mph.  I was ahead my schedule stopped refilled my water and off for the second lap.

The difference between the first lap and the second is the beginning.  The first lap with all the participants they keep you on the jeep road a lot longer in order to thin things out before you hit the single track.  The second and 3rd lap gets you on single track right away with a lot of climbing to start out.  “Fat Chuck’s Revenge” was a mental challenge; due to not riding it in a while, misjudged how long it is.   I was climbing single track and hitting it hard maxing my heart rate thinking I was close to the top when to find out that it was not but just level out and turned a bit and you had another steep couple of hundred feet of jeep trail to climb.   I made the climb, I recovered and I flew for the next several miles:  things seemed to be OK.   I came out of a low water crossing and into a very bumpy field:  that’s when I seemed to have lost my flow.  Not sure if I had been drinking too much or what caused me to slow…  I did not feel bad; I just could not keep up the speed and ended up finishing in 5 hours and 26 minutes.

The positives of the race were that I improved my time from last year did not have any mechanical thanks to Tri-City Bikes.  Did not cramp and I had a great time.  Additionally, I got to ride “The Wall” three times and even had a Shiner after the race.  Definitely be back next year to try again.

Austin Rattler 2017 Finishers’ Medals. (Photo courtesy of Athlinks)

HTFU Roubaix 2017 Race Report

2017 was the 2nd year for the HTFU Roubaix gravel race. HTFU stands for Harden the F— Up, a name that suits it well: like many gravel events, it’s HARD. It takes place in the scenic Sam Houston National Forest.

HTFU Roubaix is a gravel race put on by Bryan Voytilla & the crew at Kolo Promotions.  And, even better: a portion of each entry fee benefits the Sam Houston Trails Coalition with $950 donated because of HTFU Roubaix.

HTFU features a beautifully scenic 36 mile loop, which translates into 3 distance options: 36 miles; 72 miles & 108 miles. HTFU offers a mix of gravel & pavement.  Since the venue is somewhat remote, participants either camped on-site in the Overflow Campground area or stayed in New Waverly or Huntsville.

As I did in 2016, I raced in the 72 mile (2 lap) Women’s Open event on my Niner BSB9 RDO bike.  HTFU female participation in my event was up in 2016 vs 2017, which was GREAT to see.  The 2  lap event had a mass start together of 73 men & women.

Starting the solo portion of my race…but isn’t the forest GORGEOUS?…. (photo credit to Corvin Alstot)

Very quickly into my race, I knew I was in trouble: I had been sick & hadn’t fully recovered when I toed the start line at HTFU. So, as they say, when things don’t go as planned, just turn your race into a training ride…which is exactly what I did.

After 4 1/2 hours on the bike, I was very happy to see the finish line.  HTFU 2017  wasn’t a great race for me with an 8th place finish in my field.  But, thanks to some good luck & a through pre-race service by Tri-City Bicycles, I didn’t have any mechanicals, I didn’t crash & I had zero flats.  And despite not feeling great on the bike, HTFU gave me both a mental as well as a physical challenge…AND I also had fun, too.

72 miles later as I take back some of my gear…I’m tired but still smiling…(photo credit to Corvin Alstot)
Photo credit to Kenny Lim
Sam Houston National Forest (photo credit to Kenny Lim)