Monday, May 05, 2008

Dirt Sweat and Gears, and mud, food, and beers

I'm still slowly settling down after such a great weekend down at Dirt Sweat and Gears in Fayetteville, TN. Clay and Grant put on an amazing weekend of fun. I had to miss the SSUSA festivities on friday due to work but headed down early saturday morning. My alarm blarred at 4:20am and I could hear it pouring rain outside. I was thinking how great it would feel to just stay in bed for another 3o minutes before heading to the race. Was there really any reason to go early when it was raining so hard? I was excited to get there so I got up and made some coffee. I finally got going and got the truck packed when the rain would let up. After an one and half hour drive in the rain, I made to the Cotton Mill preserve. Everything was already bumpin' when I got there at 7am. I was amazing at how many people already had their stuff setup and also how many riders I knew who came to race. It was clear everyone was excited and anxious.

After some yummy breakfast I met up with my other team members, John, Phil and Eric (all from NMB) and we started discussing who was going to be the poor sap to ride the first lap. Thankfully it had stopped raining by 8-8:30ish but it was wet, very wet. I was very anxious to ride and couldn't think of a good reason to postpone riding, even if I had to ride in the mud so I volunteered to start the race. Off to the starting line I went with all the crazies. I barely made to my bike in one piece after the lemans start, avoiding tackles from Hawt Mike and Xtanker! I really enjoyed being apart of the start. Some people were running hard and sprinting off the line, but it seemed most of the people around me realized there was no real rush given it was a 12 hr race and since the conditions were less than ideal.

Now, I am getting pretty good at riding in the mud this year. Out of 5 races, 4 of them have been muddy. This was not merely mud though. It was mud, on top of clay. I rode through the field and tried to stay in the grass as much as I could, but once I got into the single track my drive train locked up pretty quickly. After I dismounted to check out what was up I realized what I was in for. Mud was caked in my seatstays and chainstays and my derailleur had all types of vegetation in it. This was my first dismount to clean my bike, one of about 20 I'd estimate. Overall my drivetrain performed great in this mud fest. I passed a few riders with broken chains, broken derailleurs and heard of more carnage after my lap was over. My big problem was my lack of mud clearance. I was running 2.1 Nevegals but the clay would cake up all around the tires and not come off. My tires got so wide it looked like I was making some pottery as the mud was carved into neat, smooth layers on the sidewalls of my tires. It got so bad I couldn't even push my bike, the wheels just totally siezed. I had to stop about 10 times and carve off the clay with my hands. After having to stop 2 or 3 times on the same hill, I realized even pushing my bike was futile. I found it was easier to clean it once at the bottom of a hill, then throw the bike on my back and just hoof it up the hill on foot.

This lap was taking forever! Our team was betting on 1:15 min laps on average. I was around mile 6 or 10.5 probably at 1:15 in. I started feeling guilty that my next teammate was waiting on me and wondering what the heck was taking me so long. I thought that everyone must be suffering also, but starting thinking I'd be lapped soon. Looking at the times, the pros didn't seem to have any issue with the mud. Tinker's first lap was only like 5-10 minutes slower than the rest of his laps....that's it!! My first lap was 1:55, way off from our 1:15 average we were thinking!! This lap wore me out but I still enjoyed it! It was humid and I was sweating buckets and was totally soaked after the lap. In the excitement of getting ready I forgot to take my Sportlegs pills and wasn't drinking enough water. I had a few small cramps in my calves during the lap, mainly from trying to walk up the slick hills in my poorly treaded riding shoes.

( Team 'Not Gonna Win' after the race. left to right: John, me, Eric and Phil)

I was happy to know I could stop after this lap and someone else would pick up the riding. I figured I had 3.5 hours or so before I had to ride again so I cleaned up and got a beer. There were a ton of food vendors and booths setup so I chilled and walked around and visited with other riders. This was my first 12 hr event and it was awesome to see so much activity. It was like mtn biking heaven, surrounded by like minded people and everyone enjoying themselves. I hung out in the Swiftwick tent for a while and watched the Yazoo riders come in and go out. Sharpie had a killer spot right next to the finish line.

By now the sky had completely cleared up and the temperature was climbing. The trail was drying out fast from the sun and wind but also from the volume of riders. Every lap was getting faster and faster. Phil, John and Eric all rode great 1st laps and finished with big grins. The start/finish area was setup so you did not have to dismount and pass anything off to the next rider. Solo riders could take a different path and just keep right on riding their next lap.

After relaxing for a few hours, I went to the bike wash and cleared all the clay off my bike and relubed my drivetrain. By the time I was ready for my second lap, the trail looked to be super fast and almost completely dry. It was a totally different experience out there. I really had fun on this lap. I struggled with the hills but I could tell my time was a lot better. I was starting to feel a bit over heated. I didn't do a good job with my hydration and forgot to put sun block on in the morning so I wasn't feeling great in the middle of my lap. I rode almost the entire lap alone, seeing very few riders. I had trouble keeping a fast pace and pushing myself. A fast rider came up and passed me around mile 6 and I caught his wheel and tried to keep up as long as I could. This was great and just the motivation I needed. I stayed with him for a couple miles and then fell off. I got another burst of energy a mile later and was loving the single track I was in. I heard a rider behind me for a bit and then I started feeling like I couldn't keep this pace up so I asked if they wanted around. I just heard a calm "sure" and then Tinker rode by and thanked me. I was feeling rough, on my second lap and I bet he was on his 6th or 7th lap at this point and still seemed fresh.

After hitting Lucy Loop towards the end of my lap, I was pretty sure I was done with the climbing and pushed the pace up. This section is fast, and was packed down well by this time. The last mile and a half are really fun. I rode hard back to the starting line and ended up with a decent lap time this go around. 1:14... way faster than my first lap which was 1:55! crazy how different the course was just a few hours later.

After my second lap I talked to Eric and we did the math to try to figure it if we would be get in 8 laps or 9. 9 laps would mean someone had to do a 3rd lap so I wanted to figure out if I would do another one or not. Even with the faster lap times we were getting now, there wasn't any way we could get in a 9th lap. No worries, we were there to have fun and ride. For my first 12 hr race, I had a blast, rode hard and was pretty sore and tired. Our team did well and we finished 11th out of 25 teams. Not bad at all and about where we wanted to be, mid pack. I was jealous of the solo and duo riders who were riding more than me. Next race I'll have to give a go at solo or duo. I don't regret doing DSG on a team as I do not think this race would of been the best introduction to 12 hr racing for me. I really enjoyed having time to visit with people and just hang out between riding my laps.

I chose to ride my full suspension bike for the race. Given the mud of the first lap, it may of been better to have my single speed, but really my bike performed well in the mud. I don't think my single speed would of given me that much more mud clearance. My Ventana did get heavy with all the clay but I enjoyed the suspension. I was wishing for a more narrow rear tire. The 2.1 with the mud was just too much. The nevegal tire would not let go of the mud and it just got wider and wider. The tubeless setup was perfect, no flats and great traction and my shifting was great and never needed any adjustments.

I think everyone really enjoyed the trail and had a blast riding all day. Scott McConnell won the amatuer Solo Singlespeed category!! That is awesome and he really rode hard and deserved the win! He won a new bike and if anyone deserved it, it was Scott. I can't wait to see him race on this new bike, he is gonna smoke it!!

Big thanks to Clay and Grant for organizing such an awesome event!! Thanks for all the volunteers, vendors, bike shops and everyone who helped with the weekend. It appeared to go off without any issues, which is the goal. I'm sure there were little fires that Clay and Grant had to put out, but I never saw any of them. It was the smoothest race I've every witnessed and having the on-going results posted was awesome! I can't wait until next years DSG 3.0 and am seeking some more 12hr races to enter into.

Here is a link to my Flickr set for the weekend photos: DSG 2008

1 comment:

Robert said...

good read man. and I'm glad I'm not the only one that made the pottery reference, makes me feel a little safer in my manhood. here's to the dry, hot and dusty portion of the season *clink*

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