-new fork race ready and freshly outfitted with some team hoff decals and custom salmon painted drop outs-
ever get that feeling like you may have bitten off more than you can chew? thats about where i was sitting the friday night before the race, somewhere on the knife edge between thinking what a good challenge a hundie on SS would be and wanting to shit myself.
camping out with ryan kleman (of former Jesse Brown's fame) and rich dillan (dicky, team dicky, bad idea racing, bare knuckle brigadier, tiny man and general dominator of things involving 2 wheels and 1 speed) was oddly comforting. seeing as no one from the tahoe area committed to coming out to the race, it was nice to meet up with some kindred NC hooligans and have some folks to camp with.
the race start was cold and early. mentally i wasn't prepared for the day ahead, or at least the morning. its pointless to note that i wasn't as physically prepared as i wanted to be.
-dicky. getting ready to dominate or loot?-
-yours truly. making 29 inch wheels look like 26'ers. iPod loaded with pantera and whitney houston-
the cattle gates opened and that was the last that i saw of the big boys. the trek posse (chris eatough, jeremiah bishop, jeff schalk) on geared bikes and the SS studs of DeeJay, fuzzy, dicky, etc ramped it up and left most of the dusty peloton behind on the first climb. i overheard that at one point jeremiah asked what the hell that singlespeeder (fuzzy) was doing in the lead pack, then fuzzy shot off the front for a couple of miles. the young gun and local boy, dez wilder, came by me at about mile 4 - just into the first climb. i wondered what the hell he was doing way back here with the leaders way out already. whatever his strategy was, it seems to work as he placed 2nd in the SS class and 6th overall i think. damn. and he's only 21.
my mental funk was as thick as the dust in the air from 250+ starting cyclists. you know its going to be a long day when you are telling yourself that each pedal stroke a stroke closer to being done - AT MILE 5. felt ok, and i use "ok" loosely on the first climb. only 5 miles or so, shake the legs out and get the jitters calmed. the following descent(s) was(were) loose, rocky and DUSTY. just imagine the craziest fire road descent in pisgah, cover it inches with silky, silty moon dust and place baby-head rocks everywhere. oh, and cover it with a fog too thick to even dream of picking a line through. that gets close to describing the situation.
so, no surprise that i flatted around mile 15. all the gains i made on the climb i soon lost to a pinch flat. up down up down up down. made some ground on the downs, especially when things got a little tighter and a tick more technical after mile 20. back up the 5 mile climb to the ridgeline and more steep up down leading over to some downhills into the valley.
finally around mile 57 or so i started to feel better. i don't know where it came from or how it happened but i found a rhythm and actually felt strong. fuck, only took 50+ miles to get there. but i guess better to feel strong in the latter half of an endurance event. met up with another SS rider and we kept a good pace and started catching folks. in and out of the aid stations with little time wasted - though at mile 69 the aid station had margaritas . . . and it was awfully hard not to just say fuck it, get drunk and ride the truck back to the start line. had they been at the 41 mile aid station i may have quit the race.
the riders faces were starting to look shattered. aid station at mile 79 gets the death face award. quite a few folks sitting around just broken, waiting on a sag wagon for a ride back in. a lot of climbing from mile 80 to 92. some steep shit. i guess that i walked less than 3/4 of mile the whole race, all but one stint coming in this last section.
i found myself in a group of 4 SS riders with about 15 miles left. they looked like they were hurting and i played the part for a few miles. then just i decided that i was going to drop these guys. no real reason, not like we were racing for podium finishes. i really didn't even know where we sat in the race. we happened upon a climb and 2 guys got off to push, i hammered it. one guy stayed on the bike but was soon far behind and out of sight. i knew they were pushing larger gears and could catch me on the 3 mile rolling section at the end so i kept it pinned.
i found myself feeling pretty good with the strong pace and soon was thinking, "man, i can be done with this race, drinking beer and eating solid food a more quickly if i just keep this pace up". that spurred me on to pass a handful of geared riders and few more SS'ers who were pushing.
100 miles, 14,000ft of climbing and 11 hrs 02 mins later i passed under the race clock - to the cheers of fuzzy, DeeJay, dicky and others who were showered, drunk and cheering for the SS'ers (and other riders) as they finished.
everyone said the course was hard. not a lot of technical riding (which would have benefitted me) but lots of climbing, heat and sketchy/loose downhilling. jeff schalk crashed out early ripping his knee open. saw a guy on the side of the trail about mile 25 with a broken collar bone. saw another guy about mile 50 surrounded by medics with a shredded face and possible broken cheek bone. and not to leave out all of the broken spirits and blank faces found at the latter aid stations. out of the close to 300 starting riders, only just over half finished.
if i could have felt strong the whole day . . . still, to put things in perspective - the winning SS'ers finished 3 hrs ahead of me (and 5th and 6th overall. holy flippin' fuck they're fast). dicky lost 4 rear rotor bolts, got off trail and still beat me by an hour and a half. i just don't know how i'd make nearly 3 hrs over 100 miles. it helps when you don't work and just ride hard all of the time, all over the country.
even though i rode through some mental barriers and finished (midpack in SS and in the top 1/4 overall), i'm not sure my fantasies of an endurance podium will ever materialize. maybe i'll just commit myself to hard rock climbing and more vertical pursuits. but then again there is always next season.
gonna see if i can swing a few races back east next year. and i'm gonna holla at some cane creek and hawley sponsorship. oh, wait, they already sling me some schwag.
come on out anytime and ride kids. dirt or snow.
eatough and bishop share 1st, crossing the line together at 7:02! evan plews edged out harlen price of IF for 3rd.
SS men: fuzzy with beer, dez (can he even drink legally yet?), conrad. dominators.
national ultra endurance champions: jeff schalk, cheryl sorenson, fuzzy
fuzzy and DeeJay are 1 and 2 overall in the NUE series SS class. hardmen.