I arrive at Stokesville campground at 12:15. Some shithead was already in my spot that I got last year. I find what I think is a better one and set up camp.
My buddy Chris who, I had done some training rides with, shows up at 2:00. We clear out some debris so he and his GF can camp next to me.
Me and Chris register, than go on a short RR.
I go up at 7:00 to get some spaghetti dinner and wait for the 8:00 pre-race meeting.
I find out at the meeting the cut off for AS4 is going to be 3:30. Uh-oh.
Immediately my mind starts thinking. “What time did I get there last year”
I don’t remember.
Back at camp, a little bit more prepping, a few snacks, and I’m in bed at 9:45.
It starts raining pretty hard a few minutes later. I’m glad now I put my pop up shade over the tent. The noise of the rain is helping me to sleep.
It would have worked out good except some bastard is off somewhere with a siren.
Every 10 minutes I hear a “whoooaaaa”
At 11:00 he makes one last statement of his stupidity, and I don’t hear it anymore.
If I find out who it was, I’m going to kill him.
After a sleepless night, I get up at 4:45. Waste a lot of time and get to the line up at 6:15.
Start to AS1
Unlike last year I didn’t try to stay at the back of line up for the start. I was in the last 2/3 of the line up. Right off you get some arrogant assholes that are too good to wait in the backup that happens right after the initial surge. Kind of like that idiot you see in a traffic backup who rides down the shoulder and cuts back into traffic at the last minute.
Anyways, I’m pushing the pace a little more than last year up the first climb. I’m passing people when they’re going a little too slow for me although I know they might end up passing me again. We all gotta ride at our own pace.
No egos here.
I make it up the climb and have fun on the downhill passing a few people who climb better than they descend. I pass my buddy Chris who must have got caught behind some dabbers on a technical section. They were off to the side letting us who could clear it go on.
I make it to the bottom , I’ve still got plenty of water and blow by AS1.
AS1-AS2 (10to31 mile)
Chris caught up to me on the 2 or 3 miles of fire road to the next single-track climb. The single-track climb up to the descent went a lot like last year. Walk, hike, walk, let a few hammer heads granny by me, ride the bike for a couple hundred yards, than walk some more.
Finally after 2 miles or so I get to the top with Chris and a group of 10 or so others. While most of them stop to rest and pop pills (better living through sports legs) I go ahead for the descent. If its one thing I remember from last year, I rarely had anyone pass me on a descent but I did get stuck behind people. This ended up being the most fun section of the race for me. I was clearing everything and passing people. At the bottom of the descent there was a creek crossing about 2’ deep. That cold water hit the brake rotors and you got one heck of shot of steam. The trail dumps you out onto some gravel road and you ride for a few miles to AS2. I’m guessing it was 7 miles to station 2. A nice break where the road went down for a while and I burn up some easy miles.
I arrive around 10:30, an hour sooner than last year so I’m happy.
A volunteer grabs my camelback and I make sure to tell them “3/4 full please”. I don’t wanna a repeat performance from last year of 20lbs of water. I grab a PB&J, a cup full of chips and get the gel flask refilled. The volunteer comes back with my CB. I take one last look down the road to see if Chris is coming. I don’t plan on waiting for him just wanted to say seeya. No Chris, so I head out.
I wasn’t looking forward to the next climb. After a few miles of rolling road I had 4 miles of climbing loose rutted fire road. The legs started getting real tight and some of the muscles acted like they were going to cramp. I kept thinking “how the hell am I going to climb this again in 5 hours (I was being optimistic). I just kept grannying up. At the 2 mile mark I hit the spot where later I would turn right back to the finish, now I turned left to continue with the race. Luckily the climb turned a little less steep and there were some rolling spots. Finally after 4 miles of fire road I hit the gate which ended the fire road and started the single-track. I walked the first big climb, I never could clear this thing. A few more miles of rolling ridge and finally I make it to the peak to start my descent.
I was now ragged out tired and the legs felt dead. I took a minute to take a breather and get ready for the descent. I knew the top had some tricky sections. I told myself, “Your tired, be careful or I’ll end up like the rider I passed last year bleeding all over the trail”.
I came up on a tricky drop with a hard turn at the end. Went to unclip to walk it and , boom, over I go.
“Son of bitch. Stupid,stupid, stupid.
I can’t remember the details but I fell twice more in the next 5 minutes.
I was getting pissed at myself and cursing out loud.
Maybe things were slicker than I realized, or the off camber trail was throwing me off but the front wheel just didn’t want to go where I pointed.
I saw where someone had dropped a CO2 cartridge and stopped to pick it up. I know, did I really need another cartridge that badly. This must be where karma kicked in.
2 minutes later I took a bad one fall, this hurt. I ended up 10 feet down the mountain while the bike was in a tangled mess on the trail.
Me and the bike ended up being fine, although I’ve got a helluva nice bruise on the butt now.
Take off down the trail and 20 seconds later , “POW!”
The rear tire blows out and I’m down again.
Now, I really can’t decide to laugh hysterically or cry.
The rear tire must have gotten sliced on the previous fall and the tube blew after I got going. I get to watch about 30 riders go by me as I’m trying to figure out how to fix it.
Luckily, I finally remembered the last thing I did before I left home for the race was wrap some duct tape around the seat post. If it wasn’t for that I would have been walking.
I “booted” the tire with the tape, got a new tube in and inflated it. The duct tape was still bulging out of the tire about about a 3/8”. One hit to it on another rock and it would blow right out again.
I rode the brakes the rest of the way down the mt. I probaly let 10 people go by I was riding so slowly and carefully.
I get to AS3. I didn’t think I’d actually make it but I did.
They had a few spare used tires there just for this type of thing. I was so happy.
A volunteer changed it out for me and I got another tube from them to carry with me. That’s another cool thing about the support out there. They told us at the racers meeting. If you gotta changed a flat, grab a spare from one of the stations to carry with you.
I ate another PB&J and some chips while waiting for my bike. I grabbed a cup off what I thought were M&Ms and popped a huge pile in my mouth. Pffffft. What the hell?
Kind of disappointing getting skittles when you’re expecting M&Ms.
AS3-4 (45?-57 miles)
I was looking forward to the 5 miles of asphalt I knew I had to take to the next climb. After the last 2 hours I needed a break. It went by quickly. I passed a few people, a few people passed me.
The next climb is 2 miles of off camber single-track. I noted the mileage when I started the climb and spent most of the climb hiking. I’d try riding some parts. The legs had the energy but the off camber was throwing me off. After a few times of almost riding off the trail I decided this would be another hike.
The descent went smoothly although a little slow. I only wrecked once but once I stopped rolling downhill I found myself with a 20’ climb back up to my bike.
I made it to AS4 with 30 minutes to spare before the cutoff time of 3:30.
Stopped long enough to grab some trail mix, more PB&J and get the CB filled and I was off. 1 more cut-off deadline to make before I could relax.
AS4-5 (57-76 miles)
Its 18 miles to AS5. 12 or 13 miles of what I consider rolling fire road. While it’s really gaining elevation the whole time it doesn’t feel that bad. I’m tired and the legs were cramping but it’s technically easy.
I slowly came up on another rider and slowed down to talk with him a little. We talked about the cutoff and he said it shouldn’t be problem going at the pace we were going. I had to break it to him that the last 5 miles was on a rutted out loose fire road and a lot steeper. He didn’t seem happy.
Maybe I should have been quiet.
I picked my pace up and slowly pulled away from him.
By the time I got to the turnoff for the steep stuff he wasn’t anywhere around.
I still don’t know if he made it.
As I’m riding up, either in granny or walking I’m doing the math in my head and am not so sure about the cutoff. Luckily after 2 miles I had a false flat/downhill and the climb became a little less steep. I was able to bump up my 4mph avg.
I made AS5 with 10 or 15 minutes to spare.
All day long I’d been hearing about pizza at AS5. Do I have to tell you how much was left? I had to settle for a banana and some chips. I WAS NOT happy.
I put on my borrowed light, and refilled my gel flask.
A MORE guy I’d met at the dinner the night before, Chris?, was there with his buddy Yueg.(Asian Guy). Chris was going to bail at 5 but Yueg had talked him into going on.
I joined them and we all left out together.
AS5-6 (76-88 miles)
Man I was feeling dead. The next 5 miles to the peak was along a rolling ridgeline. “Rolling”. It sounds nice but in reality there wasn’t anything easy.
You’d go down some, you’d go up some (by this point I’d walk a little), and you hit a flat spot which you hoped was the top, than repeat a few times.
I was having problem with the light I borrowed from Doc. I didn’t need to turn it on yet, but I was having problems with the weight pulling my helmet down over my eyes. I got tired of pushing the helmet up so I took the light off.
I finally reach the top and start the descent. The top is real tricky.
I walked. I walked a lot.
I came upon another rider. An older guy who was DFL at last years race.
He was taking it slow so I figured I’d just follow him a while. He was talkative. Let me clarify. He was really talkative. He jumped around from subject to subject with me 20’ behind going ahuh, ahuh, ahuh. I finally decided his pace was a little too slow and left him on his own. I never saw him again but am pretty sure he was DFL again.
I put the light back on right after I left him and had to stop twice to adjust the straps to hold the helmet in place.
I reached AS6. Chris and Yueg were still there.
I grabbed a few more pieces of pb&j that was leftover and sort of waited around till Chris,Yueg, and another rider were ready to go.
I had no idea how I was going to make it.
I didn’t think I had anything left. I just kept thinking about the 2 miles of climbing coming up that I’d done earlier in the day.
Chris and Yueg dropped me before we made the start of the climb.
The other rider, a girl, made it with me to the start of the climb with me.
We had this little system going. She just granny’d the whole way to the top without getting off of the bike. I’d take a break and walk, she would slowly pull away from me. I’d get back on the bike and slowly make my way back up to her. Instead of passing, that was my que to take another break and walk.
At the top were we were to turn left she was waiting for me (she had only been there about 30 seconds). She told me that her light had died. (I guess she meant main light because she had a secondary bar mount). I thought to myself “Well, I guess your going to die out here bitch”. If I knew her better I would have said it for a comic relief moment.
I told her she could follow me easily and we’d walk anything technical.
I still don’t know what she did, but she got her light working.
We stayed pretty much together until the descent started.
Once again, I played it safe and backed way off. She pulled away and I didn’t see her again.
When I got to the final stretch in the campground there were people camping on either side of the tape and they were still sitting there and cheered me onto the finish.
I even heard one person yell “Go Tommy”. I don’t have a clue to as to who is was but somebody knew me.
Got to the timing table , banged the gong, and who’s there waiting for me?
That goddamned Denis. (French bastard).
It was good to see him there and he made me feel great for just finishing. No good natured ribbing for my final time (15 hours plus), although I was half expecting it.
There would be plenty of time for that later.