Stop in Roanoke, VA to pick up Hub employee, Peter... because he left Brevard by bike three days ago and rode here, because... multiple hamburgers a day.
Get to Coburn (after stopping for Peter's first hamburger of the day), set up camp, register, Jordan convinces us to ride bikes back to Millheim... for more hamburgers.
Find myself in the port-a-john (for the second time) while the race announcements commence. Upon the cessations of my movements, I open the door to see the riders lined up right in front of my blue closet door. Convenient. Find my bike hidden in the sea of legs, remember my iPod, run back to the tent, get back in line a minute or two before the race starts, but without a "go," or a gun or much of anything. Just the riders up front slowly leaving and us following.
Roll out of town at a pleasant pace. Hit the first climb and things start to blow up. I decide to stick to my plan, not go too hard, hope the "race" comes back to me.
Climb over, the race starts being how I remember it. Rolling gravel. Trains of geared riders pulling along at 18-22mph. Some single speeders that can make that work tuck in like so many train-hopping hobos. I languish in my own world of sads... until bob Sowga pulls up on his single speed. Instead of being smart and sharing the work, we ride side by side and talk about most anything other than the fact that we should be working together. We roll into aid #1 with an almost 14mph hour (so far) average.
Sticking to my plan, I stop at the aid station. Fill my one empty bottle, regardless of whether or not I should, eat a variety of foods and look around at who's with me. This crowd does not look like the people I would finish a hundred miler with (yeth, I'm being a judgy asshole). The flat'ish roads were much friendlier to others than I.
I recognize the double track climb outta the aid station from TSE. It's one that really works for me, so I attack. I pass riders right, left and center. Mashing and destroying the whole way up, but keeping my heart rate in check. At the top, I also recognize the next descent from TSE... as the one that I slowly coast down as the riders I recently just passed blow by me. It happens again.
I do see a sad Watts coming the other way. I yell "whaaddafuck?" at twenty miles an hour and keep rolling. His sad face told the story, he was screwed (found out later he dinged his Stan's rim beyond usefulness).
I remember it after the first few hundred yards. The place I flatted in '06 (the first flat, not the second flat). The place I flatted in TSE a few years ago. Super steep and super gnarly, no place for a rigid fork. Just try to hold on and not die. I manage to do both and roll into aid#2 unscathed but mentally scarred.
More food, more gravel, stop to pee because people who aren't in it to win it can do that, stop to take off my left knee warmer... again, I have time for this.
These details may be filling in at the wrong moments. I can't remember their sequence any more. Just that they happened.
This did happen... somewhere out there:
photo cred: Thom/Dirtwire.tvThom from Dirtwire.tv rolled up in his Jeep transport and we talked about droopers and such. I was not in a hasty way, so why not visit with friends when I should be in a hurry to get this over with.
I roll under a cardboard sign strung across the road. I think it says "BEER STATION." I stop at the table in front of the cabin and because I can't believe it, I ask, "Is this real?"
I drink one cup of what is probably Budweiser and ask for more. They acquiesce my request. It's not good beer but it 100% better than the no beer I had. People pass me as I enjoy my beverage and I pass them back moments later powered by rocket fuel.
I pee again... somewhere in the prettiest woods I've ever seen.
The descents between miles 45 and 64 are all fuzzy. I just remember them being steep as fuck, out of control, wicked and death on a stick. Everything from my lower back, over my shoulders, and down to my finger tips hate me. I find Thom on the disgustingly sick descent down No Name fixing a flat and standing knee deep in rocks. He asks me to wait for him to finish up. My brain can't wrap my head around the logic of waiting for the media guy while I'm supposed to be "racing," but I do it anyways. Then he follows me down through the boulders and avalanche piles on his Rocky Mountain fully, perhaps to be a witness to my near-death experience. It's the hardest descent of the day (so I thought), but it doesn't manage to kill me, although I pray for death or any manner of cessation to my pain most of the way down.
Out of aid#4, I look forward to just one more long climb, a gradual (peaceful?) descent, some rail trail, one more climb... and then... something to get to the finish. I've been making lots of places back on all the climbs, and this one will be no different. When I make the turn, I'm pleasantly surprised to see it's Stillhouse Hollow. This is where I attacked Dejay this past May to take a stage win. It's my kinda climb, so I jam all the way up.
From there, I'm deep in familiar territory from all my TSE experience. I catch Igor the Giant Single Speeder, wake him up out of a daze, watch him go nutballs and ride away from my like I'm standing still, and continue to that last "gradual" descent.
If the other descents were meant to instantaneously kill anyone on a rigid fork, this one was intended to slowly destroy them with gentle, bone-jarring kisses. Miles and miles of teeth-rattling rocks... just absolutely the most painful thing yet. Getting passed by rider after rider, gears churning, suspension squishing. I'm dying.
Finally, aid#5. More eating, more happies. Rail trail and one more climb on my brain. I love the rail trail. 14.5mph and no impediments to forward progress. I think my left pinky might be coming back to life. I rejoice in the possibility of having of ten useful digits in the future.
Through the river crossing we'd been told about (a reroute around the infamous hike-a-bike over the Fishermen'sTrail), enjoy the coolness of the old tunnel, over a narrow and very familiar bridge accompanied by another rider. Looking for that final climb...
"We're just around the corner from the finish," he says.
My computer says I'm at about 92 miles.
He tells me that the reroute cut out that last climb. I'm okay with that. 94 miles after I started and 7:43 from the start, I finish... to what I would find out later is a 7th place single speed, 43rd overall place.
photo cred: Thom/Dirtwire.tvHooray for unexpected, slightly extended grass podiums.
Beers, more burgers... Jordan has the brilliant idea to hit the road towards home, and Peter and I fully agree. Four hours in, sleep behind a semi-truck wash (and by "sleep," I mean fade in and out of consciousness for six and a half hours, snoring directly at Peter and Jordan, awakened by every noise and headlight and ghost.. probably ghosts... maybe aliens).
Wake up, five more hours, home, and spending the rest of the day moving and or falling asleep.