Friday, February 20, 2009

Snake Creek Gap Feb 2009

As we are now entering the back half of the month, the time for a race review is imminent. Life has settled down for little bit and it's time to gather my thoughts and put them somewhere before they blow away.

Well the weekend was finally here after a lot of anticipation. It was time to return to Dalton and push my body beyond it's normal comfort zone for 34 miles and hope to finish with a better time than last year. Though many parts were going to be the same, this trip would be different. I was going to camp in the lot again, enjoy the campfire, catch up with friends, enjoy some frosty beverages and I was going to suffer in the woods and contemplate quitting the race multiple times. This time though it would all happen on a new bike with a new gearing choice. Would it make a big difference? Was my body ready for the Snake? I was about to find out.

After carpooling down to Dalton with Scott M, we setup camp and joined the blossoming group of riders and race organizers at the camp fire. Yazoo was very kind to send a warhead of Dos Perros down with J5. Much stress was made about keeping it iced for the weekend and how we'd all fill the time slots to babysit. It was all for naught as the keg was floated in under 2 hrs. I attempted to keep my consumption in check and keep at least a 2 for 1, beer to water ratio going all night. I woke up sans hangover so apparently I did something right. I didn't get much sleep though and I could tell my body was a bit lethargic. Not a great start to a big day.

We once again managed to avoid the death bus and got a shuttle with MeanJoe to the start. I was excited and still trying to make my clothing choices for the 60 degree forecast. The temps were in the low 40s in the shade at the start so it was the now familiar wool or lycra debate. We all lined up and were sent off, me riding in a group with KRS1, MeanJoe, Scott M and scrapper Dustin. Ok so the memory is already fading. I'm sure there were more in our group. After some rolling fireroads, avoiding huge brown frozen puddles, we filed in for the long climb. KRS1 kept a great pace and I did my best to stick to his wheel. In no time we were making the hard right into the singletrack. This was the best I'd felt at this point in any Snake. My eyes weren't bulging and I actually had a quick thought that I may be able to ride most of the singletrack climb here. I just stared down and kept the pedals spinning and made it a good ways before having to walk. WOW! One accomplishment checked off. I'd officially ridden more and walked less. I did eventually have to dismount and walk some but it's inevitable really. I played leep frog with 6 riders or so the rest of this climb to the gravel decent. I met up with Scraffy and lost sight of KRS1 and MeanJoe.

The rest of the 1st 17 just rolled by. Riding with Mr. Clean Cooper and Scraffy Ricky for the pine needle climb and the rolling sections after. The decent down to the halfway point was a blast. Any pain you've endured in the first 17 is erased during this downhill. Whenever I hit the halfway point I am always energized and all thoughts of quitting are gone. I made a goal to not stop as long at the halfway or 8mile sag so I refilled bottles, talked to the Yazoo riders that were hanging and got right back on the trail to start the long climb to the ridgeline. I rode most of this section with Jeremy N. Again I rode much more of this climb than I have in the past.
Photo Credit: Blue Tree Images

I don't remember much of the next few miles. There are some fun flowing sections and a fun decent with some creek crossings. I was trying my best to stay loose on the bike and not get too beat up with my rigid fork. Some of the decents I felt like I was going just as fast as I did with my suspension and I was really flowing over the rocks. Some of the decents though were torture trying to keep my speed fast but also in check. I tried to pump the brakes more than ride them but I just couldn't stop from going faster than I felt comfortable. In this regard, riding rigid could make me faster only out of the desire not to brake. Overall I was less beat up than I thought I might be. I was apprehensive about attempting Snake on a rigid fork but really it wasn't that bad. I know I was happy to have it on the long climbs, even in the singletrack.

I hit the grassy fireroad climb and rode all the lower section where the grade isn't that steep. I started to feel the beginnings of some cramps in my quads so I took it easy and walked most of the steaper sections, right up to the 8 mile checkpoint. Maybe if and when I can come to a Snake with more training and miles I'll be able to ride this road. I know that lies in the last 8 miles and don't want to waste energy on this climb. And in practice, I generally end up staying with the same folks for the whole climb, even if they are riding and I'm walking.

After a short NMB reunion at the last sag spot, Jeremy and Rick and I started in on the last stretch of rock. I soon found myself off the back and riding alone. The first couple miles of this section aren't that bad, and some parts are fun. If only the entire section were like this! Not so though, it just keeps getting rockier with your frustation level getting ever higher. When I was truly in the land-of-rocks is when the rigid fork started getting the best of me. I was tired, worn out and barely had energy to even walk at a decent pace. Even dismounting was taxing and I was slowing down and barely trugging along. I didn't have my computer on the bike so I didn't know what pace I was on or how I was doing overall. MeanJoe mentioned that he thought I was doing great at the halfway and was atleast 30 min ahead of my usual time. This was a boost then, but was totally forgotten as I walked and slowly plotted my way through the maze of rocks. Every small rock seems to stop my dead in my tracks. My body was tired of moving with the bike and absorbing hits and was now fighting back. I lost faith that I was doing well and just tried to get out of the woods. I didn't care if it took me another hour, I just wanted out. I was so happy when I saw the Tower and rode the last curve of singletrack to the gravel rd decent. A photographer snapped a good picture of me right there with a big smile. A smile of accomplishment that for sure was not on my face during the previous 2 miles.

Photo Credit: Sharpie

I pedaled as fast as I could through the rolling gravel section and then tucked in for the long road decent to the parking lot. I crossed the line and saw all my friends hanging out. Some had great rides and new personal best times and others were feeling ragged and were just happy to be done like me. I, as always, was grinning big time and very happy to be done, to have no quit early and to have thankfully gotten through with out any injuries. I waited a few minutes before going to get my official time. I didn't have high hopes as I walked to go get my time. My only goal was to hopefully get under the 5 hr mark. I felt like I'd ridden more and probably should of averaged a better overall pace, but my morale was so broken during that last 3 miles of trail that I was not expecting a good number. The SUPER organized race timers told me I finished in 4:46. WOW! At first I was telling myself, that can't be right and they may of mixed me up with a different rider. They didn't though! 35 minutes off my best time in 2008.

Now I am looking towards March Snake. I again and battling a busy Feb schedule and trying to fit in some pedaling time whenever I can. I don't predict being any more prepared for March as I was for Feb, but I hope I can have a repeat performance.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Good job at snake! Good write up too.

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