I got down to the campground early and got my same spot as last year. Called Chris and Eric and let them know I had a spot with room. Surprise #1. I now had cell phone coverage at the campground. Last year I had to walk around till I found that sweet spot so I could check in with the wife. As soon as I got outta the truck I realized I had forgotten the bug spray. Drove over the stokesville store and grabbed some. They didn't gouge me too badly, considering they were probably the only store within 10 miles.
Registered, ate some MORE spahgetti dinner, went back and filled my drop bags. I put in lights and a coke for AS5 and a coke and a snickers bar for AS3. Went up to the racers meeting, than back to the camp site. I called the wife to say goodnight. Before I got off the phone with her, Chris and Eric were already in there tents. Ok. I guess its an early evening. Everybody else in the campgrounds seemed subdued. No sirens or fireworks tonight.
Start to As2
I actually get woken up by the gong going off. I slept better than last year but by normal standards, pretty shitty.
I get up to the start a little late so take my place in the back of the pack. I know that getting a mid pack start isn't going to make a big deal during the course of the day.
You can see me here at the end of the video of the start. Yup, green jersery.
Right off I'm following a guy who's on a cross bike, we're still on the road and I hear a wup, wup,wup. A tire rubbing on something. I'm looking around trying to figure out whats rubbing than I realize its the guy on the cross bike. Man, if your going to bring a cross bike out here make sure its in working condition. Also of note, I saw the 1st flat tire at mile 1. No shit, I actually looked at my computer. I hope that guys day got better.
Up the 1st climb and I see Eric ahead. I tail him up the 1st climb. I didn't want him to think I was following but he was just holding the right pace. Me and Eric start the decent at the same time but before hand is a small uphill, we both dab but a pair of girls make it up and go right by us to start the decent. Shit,shit, shit.
I knew that was a mistake. Sure enough we had to follow them all the way down. They weren't going slow enough as to were could pass them easily but they were holding us up. I almost endoed once cause one them hit the brakes on some loose stuff. Towards the bottom some body comes up behind me and asks to pass. I'm on Erics butt and he's right behind the 2 girls, and I know we're close to the bottom. Where the hell does he think he's going after he get by me?
I just ignore him. He can wait another minute. As we're making the turn onto some fire road he buzzes my tire. That pisses me off big time. If I ever find out who it was he is going to be in for some pain.
Note: I've come back to this 4 days later. I think this is going to be abbreiviated.
On the way to the next climb, I'm just doing my own thing down the fireroad going about 20 mph on a slight descent. Eric flys by yelling for me to "jump on". I think "damn rooky".
I start the next climb with Eric. It turns into the usual hike a bike with people in front and behind walking. On one switchback we same James just ahead, and behind we see Chris. Nobodys broke away from the pack yet. After a crap load of walking we get to the top, everybodys kinda of staring at each other to see who'll go first. I take that as my que to go.
Fun downhill. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
On the road to cp2 I come up on Liz. ???? I know I'm doing a little better than last year, but I should not be seeing her. She tells me she has problems and is going to DNF at 2. I'd usually try to coax a rider into going on, but she's alot faster than me and if she's going this slow, there definately something wrong.
I stop long enough to pee, re-fill the CB, and eat a few PBJs. I end up leaving with Eric again. Didn't really wait for him, it just turned out that way. I wasn't looking forward to the next section, 4 miles of climbing. Somewhere on the climb I lost Eric. I finally got to the start of the descent. I kept thinking about last year. This was were the ride turned to shit for me a year ago. I remembered where the nasty rock drop/hard turn was and walked it safely. I was taking the descent at a pretty good pace......and I was having fun! I kept turning the speed up. The off camber wasn't hurting me that much. I was pretty much flying down, like it was a pre-ride.
The FS 29er was helping but I also wasn't as tired.
I roll into cp3. I keep looking back for Eric. As I'm getting ready to roll out he comes in. I tell him he'll probly catch me anyways on the next 5 miles of road and say seeya.
5 miles of boring road, than the hell-ish 2 mile walk up the mountain. I'd like to say I rode more than last year, but I didn't. I didn't walk as slowly as last year, although my left foot was getting some kind of sore that made it hard to walk. I didn't pass anybody, but did have people pass me.
The descent from the top was nothing like last year. Once again, I bombed it and enjoyed it. The descents were definately re-energizing me from the climbs.
Pulled into CP4, from memory I was only 20 minutes ahead of last year. Shit! There no way I was going to get my target of 13 hours.
I pulled the MP3 player out of the CB and take off.
I've got 18 miles till CP5. 13 or so on a rolling gravel road. I'm riding along the rolling gravel road pretty good. I keep leapfrogging with this single speeder.
I'd push a little too hard and pass, take a rolling recovery and would get passed.
At one point, during a recovery a group of 6 passed me with the SSer in the back. He told me to jump on, so I did. We weren't going fast enough to provide any sort of paceline advantage but mentally, being with another group of sufferers helped some. I got a burst of energy somewhere and endup up leaving the group. At the turn that started the real climbing, I took a break and popped some sports legs. Once again, here comes the same group. I just couldn't shake them.
According to the time, I've got about an hour till the 4:20 cutoff for leaving CP5 without lights.
That can't be right I think. I've only got 4 miles or so to CP5. Could I do it?
I start the nasty ass climbing. Everytime you take a turn all you could see ahead of you was another hill climb. It was de-moralizing. I finally stopped looking ahead and concentrating on 10' in front of bike. Everytime I felt like walking, I told my "just 10 more feet". I made the 2 mile mark and got a little downhill which help re-energize me a little. I finally realized that the cut-off was possible. The ride turn back up but I pushed hard.
I wanted that cut-off time!
I got to where, according to my odometer, CP 5 should have been.
It wasn't there.
FUCK! WHERE THE HELL IS IT??
I crank the speed up somemore. Everytime I took a turn, and didn't see it, I'd freak out a little more.
Finally, I take a turn and up ahead I see cars. I crank into it, like I'm sprinting for the finish in a 2 hour XC race. Make it to the 1st volunteer and put my bike down.
Its 4:18. I made it. I could have quit the race right there and been happy.
I commence to telling everyone I see "I made the light cut-off". They must have thought I was delerious.
I get my drop bag, put my lights in my CB and grab a little to eat. Once again, no pizza. They've got these homemade rolls that have got what look like turkey and some kind of cheese. They look good, but taste like crap. I discreetly, toss it in the woods so as not to piss of the person who made them. On the way out a volunteer does ask me about lights though ( I could have left right off though without them), he checks my CB just to make sure I have them.
According to my calculations, I was probly looking at a 13-1/2 to 14 hour finish. No way was 13 hours going to happen. So, I cut it back a little. Walk when grannying took too much energy, and not pust the legs too much to help with the cramping. The "ridgeline" to the start of the decsent is heartbreaking, I remember that from last year. After 2 or 3 false tops, I finally get to the real top. I meet another racer up there who's taking a rest before the descent. He's never ridden it before so I warn him that the top section is sketchy and that he might wanna walk it. He starts walking down and I start right after him. "What the hell? This isn't that bad. That other guy must think I'm a pussy". I can only think that last year, I was in "really" bad shape at this point. We both get on the bike and start riding. I let him get some space in front me for safety and than let it rip. Whoohoo!
2 minutes later the rider in front has crashed. He's ok, so I keep bombing down. Last year it was getting dark at this point. Now I still had full daylite. I only wish that I had known the trail better. I was hitting the brakes when I didn't need too around turns cause I didn't know what was ahead. I made it down fine and rolled into CP6.
I pulled the lights out of the CB and put them on the helmet. While I was there, Mike, who was on a pre-ride a few weeks before came in. I thought cool I could take off with him. I got distracted by a volunteer who I knew and chatted with him for few minutes. By the time I went to go, Mike had snuck off. The bastard.
CP6 to finish.
I left, and according to my newest calculations, I was looking at 13 1/2 hour finish. Keep in mind, this is after 80 some miles so I'm not thinking at my best. I Started the 2 mile climb with another racer. I'm toast by now. The other rider is grannying up ahead of me but I just can't do it. I get off and walk some. I ride, I walk. I never catch back up to the rider but did pass 2 girls who were riding togather (my moment of glory). With the damn gearing on the 29er, my granny is steeper than that on a 26er. Thats my only explanation for passing anyone at this point. Finally I get to the top and the right hand turn for the final singletrack. 1 of the girls is still in sight of me. She sees the top and start whoop'n and hollering to her slower friend, "We made it, the tops here".
I hit the single track, but its not all a decent. You'd have a nice down hill, than a short hill to climb. Well by this time, a short hill to walk. If momentum didn't get me up it, I walked.
It was here that I finally turned the light on.
I had my only mechanical mis-hap on one of the decents. After a rough descent you have a climb, I go to pedal and the cranks locked up. WTF? The chain had bounced off and got stuck between crank and bottom bracket. No big deal I think. I turn the bike over and start yanking.
Shit, its not coming. Right before I go to break the chain apart, I give it 1 more yank and it finally gives.
Out of the singletrack onto the last section of fireroad. From memory, its all downhill to the finish and I've got 15 minutes to make it. I'm going to do it! I can make 13 hours....so I thought.
I thought things looked different. Apparently the course was a little different. I was caught completely off guard when the damn fire-road took a turn up. YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING!
They weren't big or long, but I was figuring on a 15 mph to the finish and these hills were FUCKING IT UP.
I finally make what I think is the final descent and just roll as fast as I can. I'm taking the loose gravelly turns way faster than I should. Doing the "Tokyo drift" thing.
Make it to the campground and am going thru the yellow ribbon but I'm still hauling ass, not touching the brake.
Up ahead is another rider just taking it easy the last 200 yards. I think shit, all these people all going to see me blow by this guy in the 200 yards and I'm going to look like the biggest douche-bag. He didn't look like a clyde, so I hit the brakes and just rode up beside him. I said "Your not a clydesdale, are you?". Not sure if he evan answered.
Crossed the finish line and banged the gong.
I thought I was like 13:10 or 15. Liz was there and told me I was 13:03.
3 freak'n minutes. I missed it by 3 freak'n minutes.
Rather than spend another night in the tent, I packed it up and went home after seeing Eric and Chris make it back. I knew I wouldn't get any sleep anyways. The 3 hour drive home wasn't fun, but taking it was better than spending another night in the tent.
Mentally, I think I felt better this year than when I finished last year.
Physically, I was hurting. I definately pushed harder those last 25 miles.
I can't remember now if I actually ate anything at or after CP6.
Unlike last year, I can't wait to do this again.
My final time 13:02:12.
2 freak'n minutes.