Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Swank 65 2008 Report

Ok, so fitting that I start this report right after coming home from the typical Thurs night Tap room evening with dinner at Pizza Perrrrrrfect. Thad came over and we moved a bunch of not-so-heavy-but awkward furniture to the new house. We got a lot moved, yet forgot Beth's computer which was a big oops. We were done though in time to get back to the condo and changed and on the bikes in time to hit the tap room. The usual occured from then on and we ended the night at Pizza Perfect and then a brisk ride regreting the decision to not bring my wool and borrowing a vest from Thad.

So..... Swank 2008 eh? Well if you are one of the few who actually keep up with this blog, you'll know that I was in no shape for this race. I've had a lot of big changes and events over the past 2 months and riding my bike just hasn't been on the top of my priority list. I think I had about 25 miles total for the month of Oct and I was entering a 40 mile bike race?? yep! I was paid up and had a hotel room and was already in North Carolina for a craft show so why not? At least I'd get a nice long ride in the woods out of it. Well, I got a lot more!

We didn't get into Brevard until about 11:30pm Sat night so we just hung at the hotel and went to bed. 7am came fast and I was chowing on some hotel breakfast borritos and loading up the car. Beth and I rode to the starting area/campground at Cove Creek and started to get my stuff organized. After an hour or so of getting situated and catching up with some of the other Yazoo riders and Nashvillians, it was time for the race meeting. The morning was cold... like 35 degrees cold. I debated on what to wear but ended up with just my wool jersey and arm warmers. This ended up being perfect. I'd packed a long sleeve lycra shirt but never needed it. The wool was all that was needed. Oh and I was also rocking my new pair of Swiftwick 12" over-the-calf Merino wool socks. These were awesome. I never thought about them during the ride other than to think, man these socks rock, I'm not even thinking about them. I loved the compression style of them and they were never too much or made me hot or itch. (which for me is a big deal. I generally have hot legs... yea... hawt)

The race meeting went off quickly and we got in line for the Leman's start. I think someone said go and we all meandered into the woods. Jut popped out of no where and we learned he wasn't racing but was gonna stick around for moral and liquid support. We walked our little stretch of woods and then got on the bike and headed into the woods only to be stalled immediately by the train of riders. Lots of granny ring riding with some barely-pedaling going on for us single speeders. Eliot finally passed me and I saw the light and caught his wheel to get around as many people as we could before the numerous bridges forced us to dismount.

After this climb I don't remember all that much other than some fireroad climbing, some singletrack and then we were at Checkpoint #1 already. I was feeling good at this point and already loving my gear choice. (32x21) I got refueled and pushed on. My plan for the day was just to ride as long as I could until I either quit or was told I was done. They weren't having a time limit for the race this year so it was just up to me to quit.... so basically as they say "I'm too dumb to quit" so I kept going. I met up with Keith at this checkpoint and we rode the next few miles together.

Keith and I rode the next fireroad climb together and then down as the air cooled. The whole race was a combination of warm uphills and cold decending; arm warmers up and down, up and down. After the fireroad section we entered some singletrack followed with a very eroded, tough single track climb which forced me to walk for the first time. I've discovered one of my weaknesses.... If I see someone else walking, I'm doomed. I made the first section of this climb and even got some props from the female rider ahead of me, but I just had to glance up the trail and see a guy walking his bike. I said (out loud) "Oh crap".... and after about 3 more pedals strokes I was off the bike and walking.... morale gone. Wonder if this is something I can work on or if it's just me. I'm slowly getting better at not looking too far up the trail during climbs and sticking with a series of small victories to get me up.

I arrived at checkpoint 2 (mile 20) feeling pretty good, but starting to get some leg cramps. I was expecting to quit at this check point or be told I was out of time. Since there was no time cutoff I thought for a while about what I wanted to do. Thad mentioned I should quit here if I wasn't feeling like I could finish. Fred said I should push on to Farlow Gap and then quit after that since I'd be close to the start/finish. I decided that I hadn't suffered enough yet. I'd done 3 Snake Creek Gap races and knew was I had to go through to finish those and thought I hadn't worked hard enough yet in Swank to quit here so I decided to push on.

I walked the bulk of the 3 mile fireroad climb up to Farlow Gap. Most of the riders around me were walking and the few that were on their bikes weren't going much faster than me. I rode for as long as I could, but the quad cramps were keeping me on foot. I was using this time to refuel as much as i could and get some electrolites ingested. Everyone around me were new racers to Swank, and were getting very frustrated with the length of this climb. I just settled in, knowing it was a long and steep one. Once we got to Farlow Gap I got back on the bike and rode as far as I could. I didn't know I would be able to ride any of it so I was excited and confused to be riding the first stretch. I just kept looking ahead, waiting to see this gnarly, un-ridable trail. Well, I finally came upon it and quickly dismounted. About 20 min later (or it seemed) I seemed to be at the bottom but the trail was still too technical for me to ride. Then it started going uphill!! I was warned about Farlow, I knew what to expect mostly, but I didn't know that there was a considerable uphill stretch that I wouldn't be able to ride either. This is where I started to see Snake Creek Gap similiarities and started to suffer some. After this uphill was over it was pretty tame until the 3rd checkpoint.

The volunteers at the checkpoints were awesome. It was like a pit crew, even though I was in the back of the pack. They were taking my camel back, taking bottles off my bike and refilling them. There was all kinds of food available. I couldn't of asked for more help.

At the 3rd checkpoint I knew I was only a little ways from the finish/campground. I could either ride the last 10 miles, or quit and ride 1.5 miles out. hmmmm tough decision, especially considering I was only expecting to make it about halfway. I asked if they could describe the rest of the trail and of course it was said something like, "It's easy, all downhill from here". These words are never to be trusted. I pressed them hard for the truth and learned that we basically rode the first loop again but backwards then we'd be done. OK, I thought, I can do this and I set up, with a guy right behind me.

I made my way up what turned into about a 2.5-3 mile gentle fireroad climb. I passed a few folks I'd ridden with down Farlow and just settled in for the long haul. I started riding with guy named Abhay. He was on a 1x9 and I was on my SS so we kept switching positions during the climb. I'd pass when it got a bit harder and he'd gear up, and he'd pass when it flattened out a little. We kept climbing forever.... really. We started riding an overgrown section of fireroad which at the time I thought looked familiar. We even rode past a tombstone-like thing on the side of the trail that I remember passing earlier. I just remember thinking,"When will this climb end?" We rode that fireroad until it ended and spit us onto some singletrack off to the left. We rode this downhill for about a 1/3 of a mile to a T intersection. We didn't know which way to go and we noticed that we couldn't see any ribbons guiding us.... strange. We looked and explored both directions but couldn't find any ribbons. We decided to back track a little to find the last ribbon we'd seen. Ok, we can't find any ribbons. hmm strange. Then we finally find one, but it's on the ground. Is someone taking down the ribbons already?? We kept backtracking for lack of a better idea. We made it all the way back to the fireroad and hadn't seen any ribbons. Neither of us knew what to do or where to go but we knew that we didn't have much daylight left. We decided to continue backtracking since we thought that was the most logical thing to do. Maybe someone was collecting the trail marking ribbons already, we thought or maybe we'll run into the sweeper.

We kept riding and riding.... and riding and riding. Man, we rode a long ways without seeing any ribbons. Then we found the ribbons we'd seen earlier. Ok, we aren't crazy, we did have reason to ride this way. "Wait, or those ribbons 1" wide or 2" wide? Maybe those are old ribbons?" We continued to backtrack and finally came upon the very obvious left turn into Cove Creek Trail that we'd ridden right by. How did we ride by this you ask? Well, me and Abhay have NO IDEA!! I mean there were ribbons, signs and wrong-way signs that we rode right by somehow. Unfortunately for us, within a quarter mile of this turn, there are these old ribbons that we mistook and continued to follow. I bet we rode atleast 2.5-3 miles out of the way before turning back, and then we had to ride back.

So after an hour or so of exploring, we were finally back on track. This section of trail was the part that we had ridden at the beginning. The part that I was looking for forever and thinking I was on. So we quickly put away the questions of how we got off track and just rode fast towards the finish. This was the uphill secton that was slow going at the beginning but wasn't that steep, just backed up with riders. Lots of roots which slowed Abhay down with his rigid fork but the trail was fast and flowing downhill which was nice after all the climbing. We knew we were close to the end which gave us a burst of energy to get done. I had no idea how long I'd be out, what time it was or anything. I just knew I was close to being done and I was super frustrated from being lost for so long.

To my surprise I was being cheered as I got closer. My friends and teammates had stuck around to wait for me to finish. What a great feeling... not only to finish but to ride into such a crowd. Beth was there and I knew she was probably wondering where I was and if I was ok. I'd told her to meet me back at the start/finish area around 3-3:30pm and it was now about 5:30pm but I was done. I exceeded my expectations and finished the longest off-road ride ever. Of course I was and am frustrated about getting lost and wish I would of finished when I should have, about an hour earlier, but I finished, which I wasn't expecting to. I didn't think I could finish the 38 mile race, but ended up with around 45 miles when it was all said and done and was out for about 7 1/2 hours. It totally didn't seem like that long.

This race was awesome. I felt comfortable on so many of the climbs which never happens. I was passing people which never happens. I got lost, which generally doesn't happen. The course was fun and a good mixture of trail types. In a perfect world, I would of loved to of had more singletrack and less fireroads, mainly in the section from Farlow to the end, but eh... theres no reason to complain. The course was a great summary of riding in Pisgah and truthfully if there was much more singletrack, Pisgah-style climbing involved, I wouldn't of been able to ride it anyhow and probably would of been cramping and walking. A big thanks to Todd for organizing such a great event and to all the volunteers for pulling it off and offering so much help to all the racers. I had a great time and will definately try my best to ride this race again next year.

Big thanks to gRant for letting me borrow his 21t cog. I thought I wanted to run 32x20 for this race. I even bought a 20t cog but something wasn't right and it wouldn't fit on my wheel. gRant stepped up with not only a cog, but also a sweet Swiftwick dry-fit style shirt and a great pair of 12" Merino wool socks. gRant, you'll a Godsend...can't say I would of finished the race without your help! 32x21 was the magic gear for me on Sunday. It worked so well for all the climbs but a few, what more could you ask for in a SS gearing? I felt more comfortable on the fireroad climbs than I've even felt before.

(Sorry this report may be a bit discombobulated and is missing a lot from the race, but that's what you get when I write this after a few Yazoos... mmm Fresh Hops)

1 comment:

rickdeezel said...

Congrats on finishing the race and good write-up. When you've ridden that far off road, it's easy to miss the obvious markers. I don't know what happens exactly, but you can just get off in your own little world.

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