Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gettin' SWANK'ed

Pre-Race stuff:

Saturday I was mulling over my bike replacing the rear brake pads when I happened to notice that two of my spokes were severely bent on the back wheel. Oooops, that stick I must have hit on my last night ride really left a mark. Since I lack the knowledge and hardware for a proper true, I hurried the wheel over to a local shop and demanded (asked nicely) the wrench to fix er’ up for me.

He got it done in a timely manner and I promptly delivered a six pack of Thomas Creek Red Ale. I replaced the pads in the rear and gave the bike a test ride around the neighborhood. The rear brakes were squeaking badly but other than that things were A OK.

I noticed that my downstairs neighbors in my quadplex were having a party on Saturday night. Oh boy! I slept pretty well until I realized that Snoop Dogg must have been attending. I woke up at 2:26 and I heard the party still jumping. I mean it sounded like they had a Six Ring Circus going on downstairs. Luckily they didn’t keep me awake for too long and I was able to get back to sleep.

Race Morning:

Kristin and I packed up the car with our camping and race supplies and headed out. The sun was already out and shining. The day was cool and crisp but not as cold as it had been the last few days.

The drive up was un-eventful until we pulled onto highway 280 and I started seeing other racers headed toward the venue. I pulled up next to Ian and noticed that he had a geared bike with him. I had ridden with him before but it was on a single. He was clearly excited to be headed to the race.

We crossed the not so treacherous creek in my Escape and we were there. Got things set up and started thinking about how many layers to put on for the start. I quickly realized it was a LeMan’s start which meant we would be running. That meant I would be plenty warm and no layers were needed. I think I was the only one that didn’t have armdoms or some sort of alternate layer on. Dicky exclaimed that I was crazy as he ran around like a chicken trying to simulate the wind chill he would soon be experiencing on his bike.

The Race:

After excitedly chatting, we were off running. We ran along the edge of the woods then back along the trail that we would eventually end on and then we were back to our bikes. This was surely the most dangerous part of the race. The trail had roots and rocks strewn under leaves. I was just waiting for someone to fall over and scream “MY ANKLE!”

Safely on the bike and we were off. Down the chilly rock road away from camp and a right turn would take us toward the first climb of the day.

I came off the run pretty good and I knew there were some single speeds in front of me but I wasn’t really sure if any were behind me. Since this was my first Fully Rigid Single Speed race I wanted to know if I was going to be last out of those folks even though we were all lumped into the same category (Open Men.) It didn’t matter, it was just time to ride hard.

On the first climb, my legs felt a little sluggish but we were at Gloucester Gap quickly. We continued straight for a second and then a right turn for the first single track climb of the day. This took me to an area of Pisgah that I have never explored. So I was interested to know what was what.

The first single track climb was a good one and it had some awesome views that I realized I should not be looking at. The first downhill was fast and smooth. There was some loose gravel under leaves that tried to wash me out on some of the corners but no big deal. There was a huge dip at the end of this first downhill and then we were out onto a rock road. As we were headed up the rock road, a guy passed me and said I was “brave for riding a one-gear” in the race. I don’t think “brave” was the word.

The next single track climb was a killer. It was rocky and just steep enough to piss you off. I am no good at ascending rocky terrain. I was having a time for sure. Then the downhill came up. It was leafy and there were no lines to be seen anywhere. This was one of those trails in Pisgah that used to be a road a very long time ago. Therefore, there was enough room for three bikers shoulder to shoulder but not a line in sight. It was a crap shoot. You just point your bike downhill grab the handlebars and try to stay as loose as possible. I don’t believe physics has enough laws to define the way my bike was moving. Bike is pointed forward; OHHH CRAP bike is pointed sideways, muscle bike back downhill and repeat. Note: (This all was happening in about every 1/8 of a second in my mind.)

After my arms were swollen like Popeye, we were back out to Gloucester Gap and to checkpoint one. I sped past the checkpoint not wanting to stop. From here on out I knew what the course had in store for me.

I started the climb up to Butter Gap and not too far from Checkpoint one I saw Kristin standing there taking pictures. I tried to look like I hadn’t been thrown around in a pinball machine and then I realized that I was bleeding everywhere. The billions of thorns all over the trails had cut me up as though I was in a cat fight. No biggie, just a flesh wound. Maybe the other riders weren’t wearing layers for warmth?

Once I made it to the top of Butter, I remembered my vow to myself. I let some air out of my tires in the hope that this would ease the trail a little. Going down butter is always a blast and it didn’t let me down.

Next up was the climb up Longbranch. I never had climbed that trail it wasn’t too bad. I had to walk some but not a lot.

Back to Gloucester gap and this time I stopped at checkpoint 2. I ate eight quarter slices of oranges and thought about how that could be the start of a math problem, that I probably couldn’t solve. I filled my pack with some grape gatoraide and headed up the rock road to Farlow. This road was painful. I had to walk some of the steeper pitches. As I walked I would look out to my right and see Looking Glass Rock. It looked so far away. I started thinking about the fact that the end of the race would take me a short hike’s distance from this rock and it made me tired. I thought that maybe since I was walking already that I might have to walk some going to the top of Cove Creek. I sure hoped not.

I eventually made it to the top of Farlow. Farlow is insane! It hasn’t gotten any easier since the spring. I had to walk a bunch and yes I fell once walking. It was my only fall of the day. The rocks are so big that the leaves form little pillows until you realize that there are more rocks underneath. After getting down the first superbly technical section I heard “Extreme Tomato!” I looked up and Ian was in front of me. He had just fixed a flat. We chatted for a sec about how badly we wanted beer and then we took to walking up the only “up” on Farlow.

Safely off of Farlow and down onto the downhill section of Daniel Ridge. I walked the steps and cruised down Daniel. Cross the tree bridge and off to the last section of the race.

Cruising down Davidson River trail was fun. I thought my backend was getting a little squirrelly and then I realized it was only in my mind. Out onto 475 and to the last checkpoint. I ate some more oranges and filled with a little water. I started to take off and I heard one of the checkpoint volunteers say “I am going to toot this for good luck.” I started pedaling faster not knowing what he was talking about and then I heard the sound of air being blown through a straw and a little “hooooot” at the end. I looked back to see that he was blowing through a noise making horn. Sheeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww.

The climb up to Cove Creek wasn’t bad and I was in the saddle for the most part. This was the climb I was scared about walking earlier. I now realized how much steeper the pitch is up to Farlow that had me walking earlier.

Onto Cove Creek and I knew that all I had to do was survive this “paint shaker” downhill and I could have a beer and relax. I got down to the second stream crossing and I heard “TOMATO!” It was Eric. I thought he was in front of me the entire time. As he ran up next to me, he exclaimed that he felt bad. He did a cyclocross mount and took off. He sure as hell didn’t look like he felt bad. He looked like he was racing for first place. I wasn’t in second place now was I?

I rode the rest of Cove Creek and made it across the finish line right behind Eric. He told me his only goal was to beat me and that he was glad I didn’t make chase when he passed me. I was glad to help him reach a goal.

Holy heck that was pretty tough. It was a good race course and I didn’t have any mechanicals. I have no idea what place I crossed the line in and I don’t even know what my time was.

I am not worn down from the race and I still want to ride my bike.

If you rode this race and didn’t say “thank you” to a volunteer, shame on you. GIVE MORE LOVE TO VOLUNTEERS! You guys and gals rock! Even the horn tooter rocks but he might want to get a cowbell next time.

Pictures and other fun stuff will come soon.


Dicky said...

It's been said before, but there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Which side are you on?

ExtrmTao said...

I stand firmly with a leg on each side of the line.

Sir Belt Buckle said...

... not from the way I've seen you ride.