Monday, October 27

Wilkes 100k 2014

Last race of the year.  Sorta wanted to take it seriously, despite the fact that I've done little in the way of real training for like.. ever.  That and this is not my specialty.  It somehow ends up being close to a 60 mile XC race.  So fast and painful, it sneaks up on you like running into a wall a thousand times for five hours.  No sustained climbs to get a rhythm, no long descents for recovery.  Just gas, gas, gas.

Podium dreams seem limited.  Bob Moss and Gordon Wadsworth signed up.  I might have had a few beers the night before once that information settled in.

When Kürdt and I get to the Warrior Creek campground, it's cold.  Not last year's low thirties but something something in the forties.  I did not plan for that cold of a start... in late October... in the mountains... by a lake.  I'm smart like that.

Number six, because.... it pays to know people.

Gordon tells me he's actually signed up in the open class.  Bob tells me about all the other honches that I don't know in the single speed class (he knows everyone). Not sure if I regret the beer the night before or not.

Neutral start out of the campground and down the highway.  The race is going live a lot earlier than last year, prolly another mile or more of open road to cut down on congestion at the entrance to the Overmountain Victory Trail.  Once we get over the bridge, the moto pulls off, and riders start pulling away.   More single speeders than I could keep track of and so many riders that in my judgmental mind I should be so faster than get away... carrots to munch or impediments to forward progress on narrow single track.

No waiting line at the entrance to the OVT.  I dive right into the trail and into traffic.  Trains of people ahead.  I start making my way through the first one I encounter, and I lose a bottle.  Too early to give it up, I stop and get it, losing all the ground I just made up.  I watch a single speeder go by as I fumble around in the woods.  Shoulda ordered those new King ti cages I inquired about at the LBS over a month ago.

More trains.  Groups of five to ten led by an engineer that has no idea how much sad he/she is creating.  Last year, I was more quiet about it.  This year?  Not so much.

As politely as possible, I chided the leader of our slow convoys for their lack of attention and the folks following him/her for not... just doing something.

I should point out that I am aware of two things:

This is "racing."  Assuming there are no lapped riders involved, we all have a right to the trail and it is up to the passing rider to make the move.

If someone comes up on me and no one is in front of me holding me up, I get over at the next convenient moment.  No need for me to ruin someone's day.

But then again, people park in handicap spaces...  it only takes seconds to pull aside and let ten riders through and then have the trail to yourself again.

I try to stay calm at the back of the accordions, but soooo much lost momentum and energy.  Way too many sads on my part.  So many thrilling passes.  I get knocked into a small tree.  Another rider tags a rock as I pull even with him, and we both get in a dangerous speed tangle of bars and elbows.

I yell at the single speeder ahead of me every time we get in a train together.  He gets through the traffic and then gaps us.  I fight to make contact, and then we repeat the scenario... until I pop out of the OVT while he's in the gap phase of our dance, and I no longer see him.

Skip the first aid station and head to Dark Mountain.  Things are spaced out much better now.  Passing riders one at a time.  The familiarity of all those laps at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge makes me feel warm and tingly.  I come up on a nemesis from those days of solo stupidity, Ross Doswell, and as I pass him, it feels like a decade just melted away.  Coming out of Dark Mountain, I see the single speeder ahead of me and we ride across the dam together, past the aid station and heading back into the OVT the other direction.

photo cred: Deborah Hage
We ride together.  I hate it.  Nice guy, but when he's on my tail, he's in my head.  When I let him by, he won't gap me.  We're stuck together.

We pop out of OVT at the same time and hit the road.  I (re)introduce myself  to Mike (we've met before, I'm a moron) and he tells me we're probably 4th and 5th on the road.  I tell him that I think we're much worse off than that, but if I can't podium, I always wanna get sixth place.  It's just my thing.  While we're talking about not much of anything, a single speeder comes up on us hot and passes us.  Doh.

Up to the third aid station and I realize there's a chance I can make this whole thing on two bottles.  I stop, see Mike filling a bottle, grab a handful of cheeseballs, and head back out.

photo cred: Mudman
Mike and I are riding together again.  We hit the stupid steep paved climb, and I drop him, but I decide that my knee warmers are too much.  I've already shed my hat and arm warmers, so there's no other way to drop the heat makers.  I stop at the top, take them off, and he goes by.

We head back into the trail.  More OVT that's been nicely leaf blown (the trail rarely sees traffic) and over to a reverse Warrior Creek loop.  I see some course tape down and the gap to Mike closed too quickly.  I think he mighta got off course.  I stop, consider fixing the tape, realize that if I'm wrong about my fix, I ruin many people's day, and turn left.  Just down the trail, I see a spectator.  I stop and ask her if she knows the course pretty well.

"Yeah... sorta."

I ask if she would mind walking back down to the fallen course tape and fix it.  I wasn't gonna go back myself, but I also wasn't gonna ignore the problem altogether.  She agreed to try to do something (she had kids with her) and I rode off feeling smug (not really).

I caught back up to Mike and with the energy I had been saving earlier, I pegged it (as much as I could) planning on either putting him away or blowing up.  So much pain.  My lower back, my feet, my shoulders, something strange above my right ankle... just no easy way to get this over with.  Blow through the final aid station, still on my second bottle.  Drink where I can, but that's not very often on Warrior Creek.  Pass a few more riders and hit what I know is the final "climb" out of the woods.

Come across the line in five hours ten minutes... sixth place.  Well played.  Can't say I planned it, just the fates smiling on me for the last "real" race of the "season."

Grab beverages and barbecue.  Revel in the fact that I found one of my favorite tire levers of all time on the trail and that Bob Moss (already being sponsored by Crank Brewing) gifted me his growler of Hefeweizen that his second place had netted him.

Wait for Kürdt to finish. 

Seconds later...

This race always leaves a mark.

Final results.  Whoddathunkit?  Out of the top six riders, three of them were in the single speed category (four of the top ten overall)... and had I felt more just a little more urge to poach the 40+ class?  Third place.  I'd considered it. Now I can regret it.   Unnnhhh.  I heard third place 40+ got like a million dollars.

Thanks Bum and Co for another painful yet pleasant ride around seventy thousand berms.  See you at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek in April!

And just a reminder... registration for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek (which sells out in minutes) opens Saturday at 9:00AM EST.  Don't screw it up.  Set your alarms and make it happen.


Anonymous said...

Did you go with the Ikon 3.0 or Ardent?

dicky said...

None of the above. The 3.0 option was the Chronicle.

I went with an Ikon 2.35... the Kerr Scott Trail System is super fast when it's dry, and it was drier than a West Texas wind.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if the Lauf fork combined with a lighter tire might be a better compromise than a bigger/heavier front tire with rigid fork? Both will add a little weight but the Lauf option reduces rotating weight.