Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Snake is over for the season

Another weekend of great riding, camping, great company and some beer drinking was had this past weekend. It was the 3rd installment of the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial series and the biggest one of the three. the NW SORBA crew had a great race planned and an awesome party afterwards with a live band, tons of food and some sweet give-aways and a raffle.

The Nashville Yazoo boys left for Georgia around 5pm with a yummy pitstop for some Cracker Barrel. We setup camp quickly and joined the campfire party already going on. Thankfully the temps stayed about 35 degrees this weekend so it wasn't as frigid as in Feb. After a few beers and a lot of stories I crashed around 1:30am and tried to get as much sleep as possible. I've yet to be able to sleep well before a Snake race, whether in a hotel or camping. Too much excitement to get unwound quickly.

We were up early the next morning and were welcomed to a bustling parking lot of activity. Everyone was setting up for the day's start, getting trailers backed in and registration started. Bruce Dickman was in attendance MCing the event again so we were treated to his banter all morning. I was on a mission to find some eggs for a solid breakfast so Jason G and I headed to IHOP early. I was determined to fuel myself better this race so breakfast was the best place to start.

We loaded up in Jeanie's box (Element) again and headed to the starting line. We followed the trailers of bikes this time and got to the line before the bus which was nice. We were off by 10:45am and starting the long journey back to the parking lot. I felt good at the start but was nervous about the first gravel climb. I feel into a nice easy pace and tried hard to control my breathing and just settle in for the long haul, determined not to quit pedaling until the top. Conditions were on par with the Feb race which meant quite a few soupy sections and some peanut butter climbs. I made it into the single track feeling great but immediately had to dismount and walk. This section of trail is just too steep for me, coming right off the long gravel climb. I proceeded to walk and ride the next mile or so then rode most of the rest up to the gravel decent.

For the next hour I felt really good and was keeping a great pace. About 20 minutes before the halfway point it occurred to me that I hadn't eaten anything nor drank much and I was getting tired and lethargic. Crap! I started off so well and was crashing. I tried to eat and still keep moving forward. I stopped at the halfway point and got some food down, refilled my bottles and shed some layers. It was getting really hot and I was sweating a ton, definitely over dressed this time. I started up the long climb after the halfway and tried to get my third wind. It took a long time for me to start feeling energized. I was trying hard to continue to get in some calories and drink as much as I could.

When I got to the fireroad section before the grassy gravel climb I was feeling great. I took this opportunity to fuel up and eat and drink while still traveling at a good speed. I started up the gravel climb feeling ok but started to feel some cramps coming on so I got off and walked. When I got to the 8 mile check point I stopped and refilled my bottles for one last time and got my food organized in my short pockets and started back into the single track. For the next 3 miles or so I was feeling great and was keeping a slow but very steady pace through the smaller rocks.

I pedaled on trying to keep a decent speed but not kill myself cardio wise. It just keeps getting harder and harder the more you ride this section so I was slowly slowing down and walking more. I met up with Chris from Tullahoma at the 8 mile marker as we have every Snake. He caught up to me at this point and we rode together with a really tall rider on a Merlin. I believe he's friends with Dan but I didn't get his name. The three of us played leap frog for a couple miles right into the hard section, the Wall. I still can't believe how anyone can ride this steep climb, let alone after riding the previous 28 miles. This is where the walking really begins. Ride a short section, walk a bit, then ride a short section and walk a bit.

When I passed the sign saying 4 miles to go I got this jolt of energy and this idea that, if I push it, I may be able to beat my time. I really had no idea what kind of pace I was on or where I was compared to my previous times but I just wanted to push hard and finish hard. I just forgot about any pain and pedaled hard through this section. I know I was riding sections that I walked previous times and I felt great. This lasted for about 1.75 miles of the last 2 miles then I hit the wall. I had the Tower in sight but it was still one small ridge away. I was spent and devastated as the Tower looked so far away! I continued to walk and push and finally was close to the Tower. Remembering how little trail was left and the lady with the cowbell, I got on the bike and tried to ride out the rest of the trail. I got about 5 pedal strokes and my entire lower body seemed to cramp at the same time. This was the first huge cramp that I had to deal with but it was crippling. I got my foot stuck on a very small rock and just sat there for a second trying to get going but not clipping out. Finally I told myself this was stupid and just walk and I got off and walked out the rest of the trail. There was no cowbell lady and no one to be seen anywhere. I knew it was all downhill from this point and I just bombed it as fast as I could. I flew through the last section of trail and then hit the paved road. I tucked in real small and just coasted down the hill, hoping I was ahead of my previous times. I even rode by a guy on the pavement and waved to him. He yelled "YEA! Get 'em!!" and I was gone.

I pedaled hard into the parking lot and crossed the line completely spent. I felt like I left it all out there on the trail and it felt great! They were busy computing overall times to get ready for the awards ceremony so I looked at the clock and guesstimated my time. I figured 20 minutes faster and I was quite close. 5:27:38 beating my previous best in Jan of 5:50 by 23 minutes!

They gave away red custom top caps to all the finishers of the third race. There was a woman right at the finish handing them out as you crossed the line. I about fell over, still clipped in trying to get off the bike, but I got it! I earned this top cap. I think it's going on the crosscheck and I'll get to look at it during all the hard gravel grinders and know what I'm training for. I'd put it on the singlespeed but I am running the nardguard and it would be wasted under there. It is such a great idea for a prize I bet more races follow suit.

I gotta give a big thanks to the NW SORBA crew and all the volunteers for putting on the best, hardest race I've ever ridden or been to. The support at this race is phenomenal, from the organizers to the racers to the spectators. Everyone that passes you throws out some great encouragement which for me is rare.

Thanks to Jeanie and Hillary for all the support, pre-ride, at the halfway point and after I finished!! You both rock and are very supportive and giving! I'm glad I was able to show Hillary how much sweat a helmet pad can hold and I'm glad Jeanie wasn't too grossed out to take my sweaty jersey. I rode in to the halfway point and they both jumped right up and asked what I needed and what they could do. It was great riding and knowing they would be there at the halfway point.

Today was a full on recovery, relaxing day. Stayed at home until about 1ish and then headed in to setup the studio for a session tomorrow. Beth and I went out to dinner at our old favorite, Jackson's and then came back to relax. I had intentions of going out on a short recovery ride on the crosscheck but never made it out. Maybe I get a ride in tuesday or wednesday. The new saddle should be here Wed, so I'll have that to try out.

Next race on my schedule right now is Dirt Sweat and Gears. I'm planning on ride any of the local TBRA races that I can. Looking forward to the next gravel grinder as well... I hear there is already a course and plan set up.

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