Thursday, September 07, 2006

Glorious Day

I am finally able to write the SM-100 report. I am currently sitting downtown in our nation's capitol writting this. This is the first time we have had internet access since we left for Vacation.

So I will get to the facts for all of you who are dying to know.

I didn't finish the race. I made it to checkpoint five which was 75 miles into the course.

I had one great experience on a awsomely beautiful day.

So here is the report:

The wake up gong rang just after my alarm on my cell phone went off. I rustled myself awake trying not to wake Kristin while it was still dark outside. Once I made it out of the tent the stars were out and looking great. The morning was crisp but not too cool. I tried my best to choke down some wheaties and a bannana. The bannana gave me gag reflex and I had to let it go for later. I had everything prepared in our tent and was all set to go.

Kristin was going to be volunteering at checkpoint 3 about 45 miles into the race so she tried to sleep while I prepared. I noticed quickly that the start line was going to be right by the tent soI went over and warned Kristin that her sleep might be interuppted by 400 racers.

Everyone gathered quickly at the start. I looked over at out tent as the motor bikes that were supposed to lead us down the road reved their engines right next to the tent. I figured that was the end of Kristin's sleep. At the start I found myself next to "Josh the Wonderboy", we chatted and then the race was on.

The beginning of the race was normal except for the fact that one of the motor bikes stalled and all 400 of us had to weave around the bike as the rider tried to kick start the bike back to life. I thought for sure this would cause problems but everyone seemed to have gotten around safely.

The first miles were easy and rolling. The first fire road climb was decently steep and I knew if things continued like this it was going to be a long long day. I made it up the first climb with no incidents and headed for the first single track of the day.

I brought some major free riding tires with me for the very purpose that I knew things were going to be rocky and I knew I would be riding not racing and I wanted to have as much fun as possible. As soon as we hit the first single track I knew I had made the right decision. There were rocks everywhere and they were slippery. I wasn't really on my game at this point and had to push a little more than I liked. At this point I thought of Rich, and how he was riding a fixed gear with skinny tires. I wondered how much he had to push.

The first downhill was fun and fast as I passed a few riders. My tires were grabbing onto the dirt and not letting go.

Past checkpoint one I didn't stop and just kept rolling. As I headed to the second single track climb I met up with Peter from VA riding a Karate Monkey and Bellina. (sorry if that isn't spelled right) They were both nice to chat with and as we approached the climb Bellina took off ahead while Peter and I pushed and talked. This was a long long push up to the top. Once there I was ready for some downhilling. A younger rider and myself started rolling pretty fast downhill. I was really feeling good at this point and I was working the bike on the downhill and having a blast. A quick uphill caused me to get off my bike and walk while my friend came up behind me and said "Hey your pocket is open on your camel bak." Whoops he closed it for me and I just hoped nothing had hopped out. I wasn't going back at this point. I figured I had left it open at the first single track when I stopped to adjust my seat. Things on my bike were good but still not dialed in properly since I hadn't been on the bike before.

The second downhill of the day was out of the way and I started rolling down some forest roads headed for checkpoint 2. On my way down the fireroad I came up behind a truck that was doing his best to stay ahead of me on the downhill road. Finally out of pity he let me go around. Now I was racing trucks too.

When I arrived at checkpoint 2 there was this sweet little girl holding out a peanut jelly sandwich for me and I couldn't refuse it. I took it and eventually ate it. I refilled, visited my drop bag and took off for checkpoint 3.

I was told the ride to checkpoint 3 was a long climb followed by a long downhill. This was true. The climb was long but not too bad. The downhill was one of the greatest I have ever ridden. If you can picture a trail that is about the width of your hand, and then set the trail in the middle of the woods with a steep drop off to your left. Then take that trail and angle it about 10 degrees off camber pointing down the steep hill. Throw in some slick roots and a lot of rock and you have the perfect equation for a fast steep dangerous downhill. Afterwards I was told that many people hurt themselves here. You couldn't have told me that. I was flying and really feeling the rythm. You could gain enough speed to actually cut into the trail and make it feel as though it were banked against the hill instead of off camber. You could quickly lose focus and your day would be done. I saw a couple riders whose focus was gone. Every ten feet or so they would bobble then slide off the trail cursing. This was no place to lose your foucs.

I came down off the hill extremely elated. I came up to checkpoint 3 and saw Kristin. We chatted for a bit, she filled my camel bak and I tried to eat which was tough at this point. I was already behind pace a little and it was time to get going.

The next section would prove to be tough. I started cramping as soon as I headed out onto the road from checkpoint 3. This was tough because we were on a busy road and my legs were locking up. I tried focusing my Zen powers as well as I could and eventually overcame the cramps but I knew that they would be back. This road section was the only part I didn't like. We were on a busy road and apparently Virginia isn't for lovers when it involves bikers and trucks. One truck came close enough to me to pierce my ear.

Finally off the road and back onto dirt. This section would prove to be very tough. The climb was all hike a bike for me and most everyone around me at that point. I was tired, having problems eating and I was becoming lethargic. I eventually made it to the top and found some other riders resting at the top. This group of riders would become my band of friends over the next few miles.

We negotiated the downhill together as a group and eventually made it to checkpoint 4. As a group we realized that we were way behind schedule and that we might have a chance to make it but it would be very late. There was myself, an Australian, three other guys and a young woman. I am sorry that I can't remember everyone's names. The young lady had a friend riding with her for this section of the race. Just as moral support. I was told that this section was 20 miles long and mostly uphill. It would turn out to the be the longest 20 miles of my life.

I wasn't feeling good. I was cramping and I still wasn't able to eat or hydrate enough. As a group I figured we could feed off of each other and keep moving. We were brothers and sisters banded together by some sort of sadomasichistic biking adventure. It was undoubtly known that no matter what we would be "friends to the end. ~Chucky"

I chatted with my new friend from Australia for a long time going up the hill. We would walk some and then get back on and ride some. We chatted about whatever our minds would let us think about. At one point he said "I feel like a Bannana." I looked over and he said "not like eating a bannana but really I feel like a bannana." Somehow I knew what he meant.

I could feel my body wasting away. Things started getting really hard. I saw a car coming and it was "Chief" they main man from checkpoint 5 asking me if I was ok. "It hurts but I am still spinning" I said. About 30 seconds later I got off my bike and sat down. My gut started wrenching and I dry heaved for about 3 minutes and eventually lost some fluid. Now I was shaking. I forced myself back on the bike and up to checkpoint 5.

We were allowed to go on if we wanted. It was 6:00 and we had been on the bike for almost 12 hours. It would be another 5 if we wanted to finish. I did not want to quit but at the same time I had to quit. I took a moment to think about my situation and it occured to me that I would have my first DNF ever in an endurance race. It was not safe for me to go on. I know my limits and I had reached them. I could no longer endure what my body had been rejecting for the last 30 miles. My day was over. Some of my friends quit with me but three of them went on to finish. An epic struggle is what they endured. I am proud of them. They are the true heroes of the day. They finished the last miles with no lights but stayed banded together.

This has left an empty spot in my soul which I cannot describe. A DNF in a cross country race is so much different than this. I can't explain it. If you have ever raced endurance before you know. Otherwise you don't. I will be back next year and I will have a reckoning.

Thanks to everyone that cheered me on. Thanks to the volunteers at the event you guys are t he best! Thanks to Chris for putting the event on. Thanks to Scud for staying up all night two nights in a row cooking for us freaks.

Next year I will hit the gong.

Pictures to come later. Now I must enjoy our nation's capitol!


Dicky said...

I know the pain.
Quitting sucks.
The gong is overrated.
You'll figure it out in the next 360 days.

Sir Belt Buckle said...

Man, I applaud you for even getting that far. You've got some balls for riding an unknown bike in a 100 miler. Not to mention on foreign trail.

I have to say, well done. And enjoy your vacation! See ya when you get back.

Daddyo said...

Great writing, I felt like I was there. Sounds like you played it right, enjoyed the moment, discovered new friends, and survived to ride again...there will always be another race...Enjoy the rest of your trip and see you soon...

Sir Belt Buckle said...

Nice pics. And you weren't joking about buzzing your hair off. Damn.