Thursday, October 20

Fonta Flora Barnburner 50k '22

As we pulled into the Fonta Flora Brewery at 8:02AM, my anxiety was palpable.  I thought we'd get there earlier, but we didn't.  I'd given myself an hour before departure to address my complete morning constitutional needs, but it didn't suffice.  I hoped I'd have time to do all the things I wanted to before the 9:00AM start, but I wouldn't.

So as we were snaking our way down the one-way gravel driveway to the remote parking, peeping into all the holes in the woods seeking a place to leave Dr Mike's car, I realized of the three things I wanted to do, I could have two.

Obviously, I had to pick up my number plate and get dressed.  This was a foregone conclusion.  The remaining things on my potential to-do list were thus:

1. Finish my morning's business, as the internal percolations were becoming overwhelmingly strong.

2. Warm up on the road, because this race goes from zero to sixty in a hot second as people make a Black Friday dash for the tight singletrack two miles into the course.

3. Line up early at the front.  No, I won't finish at the front, but I will undoubtedly fall way back into the pack as I spin a thousand RPMs on the gravel and pavement tryna lose as few places as possible.

I chose 1 and 3.  Shitting my chamois didn't seem like an option (I mean, it is... but it isn't), and I know spun out on a 32X18 gets me mebbe 19mph on a slight downhill... the kinda grade that allows any Fred worth his weight in Bud Light to hold a semi-effortless 25mph.

All photos cred: Pisgah Paparazzi

Me on the left already losing ground because for some odd reason, I started with my left foot clipped in which is something I never do.

Off we go, and it's maximum effort to reduce my losses on the pavement.  Right turn on the gravel, and now I'm seeing people get past me that I know I can normally keep up with... and then the flood of people that I know I should be able to beat (yes, I'm judging) comes washing up all around me.

Sure, every once in awhile I'm taken by surprise, but normally the guy on the long travel full suspension bike with flat pedals and a 100oz hydration pack doesn't beat me in a two and a half hour race.

Sometimes they do tho.

Into the woods and I'm in a solid group of twelve or so riders.  By "solid," I mean a large gap has formed in front of our group, lead by two guys in the noddle bar division (most of the singletrack is pretty groomed).  Now, while I don't necessarily lament their presence, I expected this sort of thing. If I was racing in the nooodlebarmen class, I also woulda taken advantage of the start to get out as far towards the front as possible.  We're all "athletes" who are "racing," and if I didn't wanna be behind them, I shoulda tried "harder."

Meanwhile, my mental capacity is more focused on how my AXS drooper post failed last week so I grabbed my backup drooper post and installed it without really "testing" it and how due to the cold weather it wasn't coming back up the whole way... and I probably missed the mark on proper height by close to 15mm as well (best guess).

Back to the noodlebarmen...

Holy shit, the complaints were loud and clear all around.  Interestingly enough, I'm on the wheel of a noodlebarman who's handling his bike with aplomb.  I know what I'd personally do if I had a huge gap in front of me and a dozen riders on my ass, but there's nothing that says they HAVE TO get outta the way.  It's up to each individual to make safe passes, so we're all kinda counting on the riders towards the front to start making moves... but they don't.

Some people are far too polite.  Other people don't wanna risk a crash in the woods because of a stupid bike race.  Then there are those with their heads up the chamois buttered asses.

Anyhoo, I don't know what inspired them to do so, but eventually people start putting a quick foot down and letting riders come around.  It's probably eight to ten miles into the race before I have enough clear trail to ride at my own pace.  That said, two things occur to me:

1. I just spend a lot of time riding below my anaerobic threshold, so I'm plenty warmed up now and should be able to go full gas all the way to the finish.

2. This race is so short, that no matter how hard I try, it's gonna be even harder to close a gap after such a long delay.

I put my head down and do the self-harm, Type A activity I enjoy so much for some reason I can't explain.  I pop out on the pavement alone, and start thinking about the podcast I'd recently listen to about the one hour record set last weekend and CdA (coefficient of aerodynamic drag) and how much can I squanch down my body and still be able to pedal in an efficient manner to waste as little precious energy as possible... and also how nuts it is that this is what I think about while I'm alone and depriving my brain of oxygen.

As I'm pedaling up the 1-2% grade at something like 17MPH, I can see a bunch chasing behind.  Dammit.  I don't wanna get caught before the woods and have to deal with momentum suckers in front of me.  Lower my CdA even more and begin my mental self-flagellation.

Rip the Fonta Flora Loop next to the lake, cross the road to the part of the course that I attach bad memories to for some reason, make a couple more passes, I can hear what I think is the music from the aid station on the road down to my left (music? there was music?)... and...


I heard the Bluetooth speaker first, and as I slunk over to the right and let the rider fly by me, I heard the motor.  I have very little against e-bikes (I mean that, they are part of our inevitable MTB future), but they were allowed into the event as Party Pacers, meant to stay towards the rear of the event.

"Register for this class if you plan to take it easy and chill. No prizes for this category. Ebikes allowed ONLY in this Category."

So I'm just wondering how many people have already been surprised with a "higher than average expected speed" pass already and how many more will still get to enjoy the experience and was he pulling that group up the road earlier and why am I giving so much thought to this?

Once I got past dwelling pointlessly in that moment, I went back to the task at hand, which was getting to the finish line and beer.  I pass I don't know how many people and absolutely not one single speeder.  To be honest, I hadn't seen one since the first five minutes of the race.  I'm doing well... or miserably... or somewhere in between.

Over the newly opened bridge, onto the fresh singletrack of unknown distance, and to the final road climb home.  No one near me... finish... straight to the beer... eventually check the results.

Fourth single speed.  Again... just like in 2019... except this time... twenty five seconds behind a nineteen year old.

Mang, I was such a piece of shit when I was nineteen years old.  Dammit.

Gawdamm I do love this race tho, despite my inability to crack the podium.  I hear there's talk (I might be one of those who be talking) about a staggered start to break up the 300+ rider field to limit the density (for lack of a better word) in the early part of the day.

And yeth, my "plan" would probably still have me lining up with the noodlebarmen.

Back to me.

Don't think that I won't let a .66 seconds per mile gap the next spot up keep me awake at night for awhile.

Don't think it.  KNOW IT.

See you next year.

Saturday, the Pisgah 55.5k.

No comments: