I have wanted to do this race for several years. When the idea was brought up, I was really hoping it could work out. My original thinking was to camp at the start/finish area and hang out and have a good time. But, that plan was not followed and we went the hotel route. I was fine with that. I am sure I would sleep better there. It would have only been better if it was a little closer.
The week before the race I was not even sure if this was going to happen. With the hurricane moving its path right to where the race was going to be, it was all up in the air. Thankfully there was not as much rain as it first looked and although there was a lot of damage to the trails there was some workers that put in a lot of effort to get the trail ready for the race. When I was out there I could not believe how many trees were cut and debris was moved off of the trail. It was obvious that there was a lot of work put in to make the trails ready for us. They could not get all of the trail cleared and the race was shortened to 47 miles. That is why I said it was the 60 ish. I was a little disappointed, but after seeing how much work they put in, I am just thankful that the trails were as awesome as they were.
After the drive down there, we checked in and went for a little spin around the hotel. There was a pretty cool little sub division that was on a hill side or well it was supposed to be a sub division. All the roads were paved and ready, but not a single house was there and the grass was grown pretty tall. We then grabbed a bite to eat and got things ready for the next day. I was a little nervous as I thought it was a good idea to change to the singlespeed class. I had also changed bikes the week before from what I had been riding with one gear. After the previous weekends ride I started to change the set up for the race gearing and stuff. I had some issues with noises and things not working as well as it should. I started to stress, but some how it all worked out last minute. This night I still had some concerns that not everything was as good as it should be.
We got up early to make the trip to the starting area. Some how we got the worker to get most of the breakfast stuff out way before it was supposed to be. This was good since it kept us from stopping some where and eating things that I really didn’t need to eat. The morning trip over was not too bad and we were at the starting area before I knew it. We were welcomed in to the parking lot with the awesome view below. We signed in and started to get the rest of our stuff ready.
Of course I was stressing out. Trying to decide if I wanted to put anything in the drop bag or not all while waiting in the long line for the facilities. With the race being a little shorter it seemed to be the consensus to not use a drop bag or well it seemed like it. I just put everything in my pocket that I thought I would need and could get any extras from the rest stops. I was just hoping that I would not forget anything like I normally do.
Soon enough I was finding a spot to line up. I didn’t want to get too close to the front, but I didn’t want to be at the back either. I knew there was some road stuff early and my gearing choice would be slower than the geared riders. I picked a place in the upper middle hoping to be in an area where I could steal some drafting when the road went past my bike speed. I was feeling a little out of place as I looked around. I was just hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Soon enough there was a sound and then people were off. I looked around and said I guess that was the start LOL.
I was trying hard to go as fast as I could with out going too hard and blowing myself up. Normally I do a lot better when I can warm up slow. This was a faster pace than I prefer, but thankfully it was on the road and had enough down hills to keep the wheels moving. I found myself in the company of another SS rider. It seemed like we were going a similar pace so I just hung out there for a while. We caught another SS rider and we all rode together for a while. I heard the one guy talking to the other about gearing and he was running the same gear that I was. I figured he would be a good one to hang with since our pacing should be similar. When we hit the first climb I found myself pulling away from the duo and wanted to slow down, but I was feeling like it was the right pace and kept moving forward.
A little bit farther up the hill I could see E2. It took me a little bit to reel him in but once I was there I created a gap. I was hoping we could keep together as I really enjoy riding with Eric. Once I was down the hill and it started to have a little more flat areas he caught back up. I hopped on his wheel and did the SS spin coast shuffle way better than I have ever done and stayed on his wheel. Then we started to climb again and my pace was not the same as his and I pulled away again. This was short lived as he caught me again once it leveled out. I did the shuffle again and could stay with him. Some where around this point while we were riding together I could see Bushong up ahead. He was not feeling good the night before and I might have played a part in talking him in to riding. I am sure he would have wondered what could have happened if he didn’t race.
I was hoping that he would jump on and the three of us would ride together for a while, but that didn’t happen. I made a quick stop at the first rest stop to top off my one bottle. I was not sure how far we were going or how much liquid I would need. E2 got by me here but once again when we started going up I caught and passed him. I was starting to get concerned that I was going too hard. I didn’t think I should be dropping him on the climbs. He is a very good climber, but I was just doing what the bike felt like it wanted to do. A SS has some set paces that the set gearing just goes better. I was doing everything I could to keep in those ranges and not have to dig too deep. I could not believe how well I was climbing, but still wondered if I could sustain it.
I found myself behind a female rider that was holding a good pace for me. It was a little slower on some of the climbs, but not slow enough that I thought I was not going hard. She was ripping the down hills and helped me be more confident on what was coming up since I could see someone ride it before me. Somewhere along the Bull Mountain loop we hit a steep single track section. I am pretty sure it was the 3rd steep section. It was not as bad as the first two, but next thing I knew I heard a pop and then my chain was on the ground. I said I broke my chain as I was pushing up the hill and told her to keep up the good work.
I had just put a new chain on a couple days before. The new gear ratio needed another link and I was not very happy with how the chain was working with the added link. That and I had some other issues with the drive train that I thought a new chain would do the trick. I ended up with a Shimano chain that I have not used for a while. They normally come with new chain pins that break off and not a quick link. I did pick up an extra quick link to have just in case. I guess I should not have used the pin to put the chain together and stuck with the quick links that I have had good luck with. This is where my chain came apart. I took what was left of the link off and then went to put the quick link on. I found part of the pin still stuck on the other side of the chain and had to get my chain took back out and take it out. Then when I tried to use the new quick link I could not get it to lock in. I don’t know if that part of the chain was messed up some since the pin pulled out or what, but I could not get it to work. The last time I tried it flew apart and half of the quick link went flying. Dammit! I will never find that.
I dug in to my little tool pouch and found a back up 9 speed quick link that I have had in there for a long time and never needed. I was so glad that I still had that in there. Once I got that out, the chain went together really easy. I took a minute to eat a gel and take a quick natural break that I needed since shortly after the start. While I was sitting there trying to fix the chain E2 and a lot of other riders went by me. I had put in a lot of work to pass these guys and here they just go by. Once I was back up and running, I hopped on the bike and took off. I had a little extra adrenaline to push me for several miles.
I started picking off riders left and right. I stopped at the last rest stop to fill up my bottle again and have a little coke to help keep me going. I have to admit that when I was climbing the chunky road again I was moving pretty good. There were several riders that I went flying by. I really didn’t know what to think. I am not normally that strong of a climber. I can normally climb about everything, just not that fast. At this point I knew we were getting close enough to the end that I had to keep pushing my pace. I was also a little worried that when we hit the last hard climb that was discussed, I hoped I had the legs left to do it. Then at some point I was bombing down the other side and it clicked. That WAS the hard climb! My spirits lifted again and I had the motivation to push the pace to the end.
I was moving the best that I could on the road sections. Several high rpm cadence spins with a tuck to try and keep the pace going. For some reason I got paranoid and kept looking over my shoulder that I was going to get caught by another single speeder. I also kept trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of E2 up ahead. I was hoping that my pace up the climb helped me bridge the gap. I started to get excited once I turned on to the road in to the retreat. I passed a couple riders and kept the hammer down. That is until I made that turn on to the grass. I forgot all about being told about that earlier in the morning. That section just about killed me. It was a freshly mowed field that was not very smooth and also the sun was out and just baking you. I just kept turning the pedals over and could not wait to make it to the finish line. I pulled a pretty weak wheelie, but the ride deserved one.
I ended up in 11th place in the single speed class and 114th overall. I had a finishing time of 4:33. I would have also finished 31st in the 40-49 age group if I would have stayed in the original class that I signed up in. E2 finished just 3 minutes ahead of me. Considering that I was stopped for 10 minutes to fix my chain, I guess I did get pretty close to catching him. Those 3 minutes would have moved me up 13 spots in the overall. I am super happy about how well I rode. That was the best that I have ever felt for a longer endurance race. I still feel like I would have been able to finish pretty strong if the race was not shortened, but it is really hard to say.
I really enjoy doing these races. Going places that I normally would not go and then having to dig deep to be able to complete the distances. Maybe some day I will be to the point that I will want to push it to the 100 milers. That might be a little while yet. I would like to get a little more competitive in the distance that I am already doing. The other thing that makes these trips even better is when I do them with great people. Bushong and E2 have been a huge reason that I want to do more of these events. It is always a great time with a lot of laughs hanging out. I even enjoyed having Kruger around. Maybe I was just a little less stressed out than the last trip :-).
Good times with good people. What more can you ask for?
Well other than my new shirt 😀