Sunday, January 06, 2008

It is what it is and it was what it was

The first Snake Creek Gap time trial was this weekend in Dalton, GA. All the Yazoo guys were heading down and it was to be my first race of the year and first race as a Yazoo team member. I'd debated about going, about which distance I'd enter, about which bike I'd bring, about which gearing I'd run on the singlespeed, but now was the time for action. No more time to stare at my new crosscheck; it was time to pack the car and head to Georgia.

I rode down with Elliot and Fred and once in Dalton the first stop was the liquor store (of course). We attempted to fit dinner in before purchasing beer, but the locals were crowding the Mexican joint. After getting settled in the La Quinta and enjoying a couple beers, we headed to dinner. Lots of visiting and story telling followed back at the hotel. The beer was following and we were all having a great time. I for one was trying to stay conservative and not repeat my terrible hangover I had last time I partied with the Yazoo crew before a race. 2am came fast and everyone split up to get some rest. I had a lot of trouble falling asleep and at around 3am woke up to a dark room and some loud snoring. Thinking it was like 7am, I felt wide awake and again, had trouble getting back to sleep. Too much anticipation for the big ride the next day. The biggest/longest/hardest ride I'd ever been on.

The real 7am came too soon. We slowly got moving, had some crappy continential breakfast and got ready to head to the starting line. We were running a little behind and I didn't have much time to get my number tag and try to find Hodge (whom I'd never met). Hodge was going to try to bring me an easier freewheel to use for the race. I asked around the starting line if anyone had seen him but no one had so I just made the decision to ride what I had and make sure my bike was ready to go and get it loaded on a trailer. This was the first time I told myself "well, it is what it is, roll with it". I was going to ride 32x18 and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I got my bike loaded and hung with the Yazoo guys until we loaded the bus.

Now the bus ride was something else. Just think of a ratty, old bus, filled to the brim with riders, many of which were in the isles, driving down tight country roads with the bus driver from SouthPark. We were behind a slow moving car which irritated the bus driver and finally forced the bus's brakes to overheat and an alarm to start going off. At this point the bus swerves quickly to the left and passes this slow car, over a double yellow line, on a blind turn. Now I'm glad the driver was able to avoid rear-ending the car and ramming them off the road, but a little warning of the impending doom we were going to face would of been nice.

We finally made it to the true starting line and got reacquainted with our bikes. Riders were being started in groups of 6-8. They let all the Yazoo crew go in a big group which was nice. Troy told me I could ride with him for a bit. This was great, I had high hopes of staying with Troy for a while and he was telling me about trail obstacles coming up. The fireroad we were on started to get steeper and Troy was pulling away. I was determined to try my best to ride my own pace (which I didn't know what that was yet) and not exert too much energy too early in the ride. I was riding alone within the first 2-3 miles of trail. Alright, time to turn on the ipod and settle in.

I got to the end of the fireroad and luckily saw a guy riding out of the woods towards me. I thought this was odd so I motioned to ask where to go and he pointed me to the right, into the start of the singletrack Pinhoti I. I have to assume this guy either missed the turn or he was supposed to be there to show the way. Either way I'm glad I saw him or I may of been riding off course for a long time. The singletrack immediately started going uphill and just getting steeper. Wake up call!! This was going to be a hard ride, and I don't think I'm ready to push the pedals up these type hills. I rode until the pedals wouldn't turn over fast enough to keep going forward and started the first walk of the day. I was a little disappointed in myself, but I knew walking was inevitable so why put it off. I switched from riding and walking for the rest of this climb, playing leap frog with a couple geared riders.

After some switchbacks and riding my way up the side of the mountain, a couple people I knew started riding up behind me. I had stopped to double check my rear wheel hub tension and Jeff Scott and Adam Queen rode up. I got onto Adam's wheel and rode with them for a couple miles. I started feeling a lot better and I was enjoying riding with some other singlespeeders who were at my pace. I started drifting off the back a bit and settled into some alone riding again. After the trail started going downhill on a gravely fireroad, I saw Adam on the side with his water bottles on the ground. I stopped to check on him and helped him get situated again. We sent pumptrack Jim on and the two of us started riding together.

This section started getting fun, finally some great downhills with fun water bars. Right before the last water bar before the tight left turn I had a rear flat. I got it changed and Adam and I rolled on out of the woods and up to the road. Could it be that we were already at the halfway point? I saw Ivory with his red pants and asked Adam. Adam says "no way" my computer shows 12.5 miles... I look down and my computer shows 4.5 miles (glad I brought that). Either way, I rode up to Ivory, asked the dumb question if this was the 1/2 way point and got a Yazoo Pale ale. I pulled out some food and ate and drank. Adam and I refilled our water bottles and I checked my air pressure. Adam found out there was a cutoff of 2pm to be at the halfway point and it was already 1:45. We had to get going and make good time. We were told there was another cutoff point farther on and we had to be there by 4pm but we had no idea where "there" was. We just rode as fast as we could.... up and up and up.

The second half starts with a twisting singletrack accent, back up to another ridge. Adam and I are riding and walking, back and forth, a lot. We make it out to a grassy/gravely fireroad and I don't get very far before I have to start walking again. I basically walked 3/4 of this fireroad up to what ended up being the last check point. It's only 3pm so we get here with an hour to spare before the cut-off. We're happy, Adam is fighty off cramps but is feeling better. We grab some honey goos packs and some water and start the last 8 miles. On our way back in the woods we joke with the volunteers and say "All downhill from here right?!" They reply, "Rrrright. Do you want the truth?" I yell "No way..." and we start back in on the hardest 8 mile section of the day.

I hadn't known what to expect for most of the day. I was told a few pointers and I knew that when it was 5 miles to go that there were 3 of the longest miles you've ever ridden. So going into this last 8 miles of trail, that was in the back of my mind; 'somewhere in here there is going to be the hardest 3 miles I've ever ridden'. Well, I didn't expect the longest 6 miles of my life. Adam and I just poked our way through, avoiding flats and endos. Thankfully the first few miles where relatively flat with a couple steep hike-a-bike sections. Even though we were riding most of this section, we were making terrible time and we knew it. We both didn't talk much and just listened to our ipods.

At this point both of my legs are starting cramp up, one muscle at a time. The cramps just keep moving from left quad to right calf, then over to right quad and on and on. Those small electrolight mouth strips that were in the swag bags turned out to be my saving grace. They seem to go directly to your bloodstream. I'd get 3 or 4 of those in my mouth and within 1 minute, my cramps would start going away. They work much faster than any goo or drink. The only problem is they only seem to work for about 10-15 minutes, then my cramps would start coming back. I started walking like I had two leg braces on and couldn't bend my knees. I was able to "walk-through" a couple big cramp sessions and just started eating my remaining goo packs about every 15-20 minutes.

Adam and I finally make it past the '5 Miles to go' mark and I know we're in for the crappy part. The trail we just left with it's babyheads, softball size rocks, and off chamber triangle rocks is turning into a trail with babyheads, softball size rocks, off chamber triangle rocks and LARGE boulders. The trail kinda looks fun, if I had started at this section, and hadn't just ridden 28 miles to get here. Adam and I ride as much as we can and I get to tell him about my crosscheck that is just sitting at home, brand new. Torture to get a bike and then quickly leave town to ride 34 miles in Pinhoti.

Adam and I finally see what I think is the tower. I remember Hensley talking about the tease and how the trail loops around so Adam and I stop for a second to grab the last of our goo and water. We ride the rest of the single track out and off in the distance I see a lady running towards the trail. She stops and grabs a cowbell and just starts wailing. Wow! That was cool... she says "You all deserve some cowbell." I'm not even sure what I replied with except to ask "are we really just riding down this fireroad to the end" I hear her say "Yep" and we're off. Down, down, down we go on this gravely fireroad and then we ride up on a couple guys in chairs who direct us off the road into some newly cut trail. We pop out quickly on the main road, kind of confused. Where do we go now? I am leading and just start riding the road downhill. We start going pretty fast and I'm getting worried that we aren't going the right way. I don't see any volunteers and we're heading down a hill that I definitely don't want to have to ride back up. I eventually see a guy with a camera next to the road. I point forwards with a confused look and he waves us on. I start to see the parking lot off to the right and I get my bearings. We're flying at like 35 mph and then turn into the entrance and down into the gravel lot. Finally, we are crossing the finish line. It even looks like maybe we aren't the last people and people haven't started packing up the finish line yet, even better!

I ride up to the Yazoo guy with a huge grin on my face..... I made it. I finished, I finished before dark and no one had to come and sweep me up. All goals met for the day. I chat about the ride with Hensley and Thad and some others then go find a beer and the chili. Luckily they had some chili left. Unfortunately Adam wasn't able to get any before he had to head back to Nashville. Elliot takes me back to the hotel to clean up pack up the room. Elliot, Fred and I end up heading to Chattanooga for dinner and then decide to just get coffee and drive the rest of the way back to Nashville.

All in all it was a GREAT day of riding. I had a great weekend and had a blast hanging with Elliot, Fred and the rest of the Yazoo guys. I finally pushed myself on a bike and really went for something that I wasn't sure if I'd complete. I was lucky and my bike treated me wonderfully. I had no mechanical issues of any kind, only had one flat tire and didn't really run out of water or food. For the next race I think I will pack a bit less hard food like clif bars and few more goo packs. I'd like to get some Sportslegs pills and try to use those and also some electrolight pills and maybe some more of those electrolite strips (they rock). I felt good about my food intake and just felt I needed to work on my salt/electrolite balance to keep my cramps away longer.

It was really great riding with someone for the majority of the ride, especially through the hard sections on the last 17 mile section. It would be very easy to get quite demoralized through some of the climbs and especially the last 8 miles.

whew.... Woke up pretty sore on sunday but very glad to be home and in my own bed. Took it easy and just did a bunch of Google work and some errands with Beth. I had intentions of taking the crosscheck out and dialing it in some more but never made it. A nice relaxing end to a great weekend though.

All my pictures from the weekend are HERE. They are all from friday night with the exception of one I got from one of the photographers there. His pictures are HERE.

EDIT: Happy Birthday to Thad!! Snake Creek was on his birthday and he finished under 4 hours which was his present to himself! Way to go!!

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