Get to the race, pull in the parking lot... and the first person I see is Bob Moss.
I tell him I'm going to race masters since I can't win now. Thanks for coming, buddy.
Actually, the reality is that I have three goals here that have nothing to do with podiums and/or glory:
1. Make the most of the weekend.
2. Ride 43 miles of new stuff.
3. Retain a shred of fitness for the Lula Lake Land Trust 5 Points 50. I promised myself I'd keep in shape after the Fool's Gold 60, but I've honestly done zero before-work bonus miles. I could have predicted that. Anyone could have tho.
I register for single speed anyways. I would've enjoyed the not knowing how I'm doing that I associate with racing my age group, but I decide if this race doesn't matter, then nothing does or should.
Maybe 70 riders at the start. I think I'm talking to the cargo short guy from Fool's Gold that beat me by a few minutes, but it's actually Victor Guevara, 4th place at the Shenandoah 100... who beat me by fifteen minutes. We go off, and I see Gabor off the front behind Bob Moss (I assume, because he would be up there somewhere out of sight). I've seen Gabor standing on a few Facebook podiums (he won the Southern Endurance Series this year), so prolly no podium for me today. I'm okay with that.
I move in front of Gabor, watch Victor ride away, I ask Gabor to come around, and he tells me that he's okay with 4th place. We're now locked in a heated battle to not get on the podium.
I feel the stout pace in my lower back. Plenty of punchy little climbs. I find the right spot and let Gabor go around me. He reluctantly makes the pass. Perfect.
Moments later, his chain falls off. I get by him. I wonder if he's the kinda guy to be motivated by slight adversity or crushed. Personally, I can go either way. Depends on... like a million different things.
Apparently for him, it's motivation. He comes by me attached to a train of two other riders.
I miss the first aid station because I'm ignorant. Wasn't planning on stopping, but it was going to be a mental marker. Later on a hike-a-bike, a single speeder named Tommy from Moonstompers comes around me. He tells me that this climb is bad, but wait until we get to Hi Dee Hoe. He also tells me the aid station was back there.
Thanks for all that.
The rest of the race is scrambled eggs in my mind (standard scrambled eggs). The trails are way more back country than I would've imagined. Quite a few of them are narrowly bench cut into the side of the mountain. My fear of heights is applying the brakes liberally on such descents. I do feel more bueno now when I have to pedal because I'm officially on a fun ride. The Gauntlet trail provides the shits and giggles, and I find my groove on Four Gorges.
At the second aid station, my bottles are dry. I hand one to the volunteer.
"You want water or water with stuff in it?"
"I like stuff."
Grab a fig newton, almost snatch a sammich because it looks like I see bacon sticking out the side, but my brain says it can't be. I take my hand back.
"Those are PBJ and bacon sammiches."
I grab one and my bottle of "stuff" and ride away.
Bennett Springs to Rattlin Run. A sign at the entrance says "expert only." The trail starts with a few rocks... that anyone could totally ride around.
And then it went pear shaped. More hiking trail than bike, at least with 35 hard miles in the legs. Big rocks, boulders, little rocks, off-cambers, steps, rock bridges... it's nuts. The young (and very skilled rider in front of me) takes a header. Cramps.
I ride away, Song Bird to Arrowhead, which I know is the final trail. Five miles to go. I pass Wake Fulp, and I'm glad that at this time, I have no idea who he is.
Fire road for the final three and a half miles. Wake comes around me and leaves me behind. Fine.
Finish. Check the immediate results you get when the promoter uses bib numbers, a staple gun and a well-used two by four.
I finished third place single speed. Wake Fulp finished one minute ahead of me... 1st place Masters. I'd be kicking myself for several reasons had I signed up in my age group. Shit, there's probably fewer than ten finishers so far. No idea how that happened. Guess I'm not going home as soon as I thought I would.
Tommy and Gabor come in eventually come in. I find out that I passed Gabor when he went to the first aid station (slightly off course) and Tommy took a bad turn going the wrong direction around the Bennett Springs Loop, adding about .2 miles to the climb up to Rattlin Run.*
photo cred: Leah RanneyThere's no way to get around saying I had a blast. Logistically, it was one of the most painless things I've ever done. Quality of course wise, it was a kick-in-the-dick good time. An incredibly solid, diverse, demanding course. 43 miles in 4:37... which was only 26 minutes less than it took me to go 60 miles at Fool's Gold. A true back country endurance race experience and way more than I expected for $40.
I would highly recommend putting this race on the calendar for next year. HIGHLY.
* Of course, I had to go back after the race and put all the trail names and such together to really understand what happened that day. When Tommy told me what he did, I just nodded my head and said, "Oh... yeah."