After “pre-riding” this course last year during a fundraiser, I knew I needed to take a LOT of gear inches with me as the climbing on this course around Midwestern South Carolina was miniscule at best. I decided to try something really stupid and throw some big volume cross tires on the Drunken Monkey along with a 34X15.
After unsuccessfully trying to mount the tires tubeless and destroying two tubes on the back tire setting them up with tubes, I was just sort of hoping I could get through the race with out DNF’ing from flats. I HATE running tubes in races.
After a 4:30 AM wakeup call, I met up with 3 other WNDC members and we took off headed deeper into the red clay region known as the Central Savannah River Area. When I used to live in Columbia, I scouted these trails alone and always thought it would be a great idea to link them together and that is exactly what this race is all about.
After a quick and easy race day registration, I staged my bike and got ready for the LeMan’s trot.
During the trot, I heard The Hawley Blog himself commenting on my trotting pace, “I like that pace you got Jonathon.” I think what he meant to say was that if my shorts (plaid) were any indication of my speed, than I had hit ludicrous speed.
On the bike I thought I might have been the first SS into the woods but I must have been wrong even though it would take me a long time to figure that out. I hadn’t tried the 60 PSI cross tires on any trail so I was anxious to see if I could keep it upright through the first section of root filled single-track.
It was obvious that I was going to be slightly slower than normal on the single track but I still kept a decent pace and I only had to let a few riders by, one being a SS that I hoped I would catch once things would flatten out. After a lot of banging around I was out on the first gravel section of the day and had kept it upright even though riding the skinny tires through the woods was intense and not pretty.
Instead of making a point to track the only SS’er that I knew was ahead of me down, I chatted with several folks for a bit and just generally realized that even on the gravel I was having a hard time spinning the gear up to speed. The tires were a great call but the gear was too much for me to handle, oh well.
After grabbing some bottle refills at the first 20 mile checkpoint I took off on the flat single track that is Wine, I love this trail it goes on and on as a tight six inch ribbon of single track that is meant for the big ring. I carefully negotiated the first and only technical rocks on the course and then took off. The only other scare tactic the trail uses against you are all the wet and slippery bridges. Most of the bridges have mesh over them to prevent a disaster and I was really enjoying myself through this section.
As I started to get into a groove I came up on one bridge real fast and realized it did not have mesh. I had to check my speed and tried an easy pull of the brakes but found myself sliding off the bridge next to my bike. No harm no foul, I was up quickly and back up to speed in no time.
Turkey was a repeat of Wine and I was happy to see the gravel and spin my legs out for a bit. At the second rest stop I had a sag bag waiting for me and it was SOOOOO hot I could only drink one of my precious yuenglings to keep the WNDC alive and choked down a ham sandwich. This of course occurred after I laid my bike down in the middle of a poison ivy patch. I had an extra tube in my sag as I was only carrying one but I left it there as I had not flatted.
Two miles away from the rest stop and 36 miles into the race I flatted. Right as I had the tube change in, the rolling dying rider lookout truck came into view and asked me if I would like a floor pump, hell yeah I want a floor pump I have to get this tire back up to 55 PSI. Even at that pressure the tire felt squishy and I was now out of tubes unless I wanted to ride back and get an extra, NO WAY. I had 30 miles to go and just had to hope it wouldn’t go flat again as nobody was going to have the right sized tubes.
I hit Modoc (Stephen’s Creek as I know it) and was surprisingly able to ride most of the 5.5 miles. I love this trail and was having a good time in the mud as we had just missed a thunderstorm. After a couple miles and passing people I came across a twisted bridge that people were falling off of trying to walk across the thing.
I hopped down into the creek and crossed that thing through the water. I didn’t need anymore of those experiences today.
Out of MODOC, more water and Powerade and I was on my way for the last grueling 15 miles along gravel and pavement. The worst part about the last section is that I was just barely catching up to some folks so I could see how far ahead of me they were on the highway and it looked like they were riding to Charleston.
Crossed the finish line in just under 6 hours and 3rd single speed out of 7 riders, I was waaaaay behind the first two and it adds to the learning lesson of gear ratios.
Great time, thanks to CSRA and all the volunteers, that was the best after ride burger I have had in awhile plus I got a sweet pint glass for my effort.