Monday, July 23, 2007

off road assault: apparitions on heartbreak

This is the elevation profile that haunted the deepest parts of my mind sunday. Here's the race report. As always, thanks for reading.


My Sunday started at 5:00am driving to Matt Shanly’s house. Already, we’re questioning what the hell we’re getting ourselves into. Nearing Marion we receive an inspirational voicemail from Smart Tom: “Get ready, we’re racing bitches!!!”

After the confusion of signing in, finding out the rest stops will not be as I expected, and trying to repack my feed drop bags, I start pedaling around. It’s not like you really need a warm-up though. So we line up to Bruce’s word of encouragement almost start the entire field with a dog in the road, and then take off around 8:15am. The first few miles are chill. Drafting ensued, hand close together, head low. We turn onto a Mill Creek Rd. It quickly turns to gravel. Dusty, dry, chattery gravel. Soon it’s the most heinous hike a bike ever and the entire field is standing. My ankles start to develop blisters. I knew I should have bought some cheaper, more hiking friendly shoes. Left onto some cool singletrack, and we dump out on the upper end of Mill Creek Rd. Some pavement brings us to the famous Kitsuma. It would have been a fun challenge of switchbacks, but again, the field comes to a dead standstill. I’m on my bike most of the climb to avoid growth of my blisters, granny gear, trackstanding, leaning on trees. The top of the climb brings false joy as we begin to descend, then stop and wait more. After the famous ripping descent we are on Mill Creek Rd. Again.

Climbing some pavement finally brings us to singletrackish stuff on our right. This is the most switchback laiden section of trail I’ve ever ridden. It was more fun to ride later in the day though, when people weren’t in the way. I rode a lot of uphill log crossing to the amazement of the people walking behind me constantly scrubbing my tires with theirs. Thanks guys. I’m pretty sure at one point shortly thereafter that I was on Raspberry Ridge, then Headquarters. The trail seemed to mimic some of my favorite local routes so well. Except after the descending there was more climbing. Riding this grassy roadbed was fun and chill until I feel the sting of a bee or ant or some other creature inside my jersey. I stopped to try to deal with this, and was passed by twenty people or so. Oh well.

The end of this road led us to the second feed area. I’m a little worried at this point, as the distance to the first rest area disrupted my scientific plan of eating/drinking. I should have been eating salt tablets and drinking more and taken at Hammer Gel from the first rest stop, but I pretty much forgot. I stretched for a bit, removed my helmet, and prepared for a few hours of uphill. My garmin died at this point. Thanks guys.

A short pedal on gravel brought us to the infamous Curtis Creek Rd. I don’t really know how to describe it, except to say it was like Roseboro Rd gradient, with Edgemont Rd length. Although it seemed a bit more like 18 mile rd… around every corner seemed a corner I’d just ridden past. The lower section didn’t hurt me. Near the top I ran out of water and could barely choke down a Clif Bar. This was the point I’d wondered about: total breakdown. It didn’t really surprise me, though I still had thirty five miles to go. Near the top of Curtis Creek I began cramping. First it was just my left leg, then both, then my hands. Fingers straightened. Others curled uncontrollably. A woman rolled by me on a bike and said blah blah blah. My iPod earphone in one ear and the other facing away from her seemed to tell me she said something .3 miles to the feed area. Then my wandering mind asked if she said three miles?!?!? I kept the pace chill, not that I could really do anything more, and rolled into the rest stop with joy. I ate some Endurolytes (Salt tablets), some Hammer Gel (espresso with caffeine, mmmm), and refilled my water bottles and camelbak. As I walked toward my bike to lube the chain I was forced to remove a pair of shorts from my handlebars. A volunteer from Bio-wheels apologized and assured me they were his and they were clean. It was still a bit odd. With a lubed chain I started what was one of the easiest sections of the ride. The Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’m used to riding on the BRP so I selected 32-32 for my gearing and trudged along. Riding through a tunnel was really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. A fifty mile per hour (seemed like it) descent led us to the hike a bike steepness of a wall on our left that led to heartbreak ridge. Someone assured us that after the 300 yard hike it was “all downhill.” Well. Heartbreak was great. Although I think I saw a small black bear walking towards me near the top and I shrugged it off. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t real and my mind was totally gone. My legs began thoroughly cramping on the descent, which lasted at least 15 minutes, and getting off my bike to step over a two foot tall log put both legs into total cramp mode. I made it down the rest of the singletrack and to rest stop five with relative ease, refilled my water bottles, but not my camelbak (idiot) and asked how much farther. TJ from Liberty said well, you just have to ride Kitsuma again, so however long that’ll take. This was possibly the low point of the whole day. I’m hoping to big ring it downhill on pavement to the car and I’m faced with another brutal climb/hike with cramped legs and developing blisters. I wanted to punch the guy in the face that said “all downhill.”

Riding up Mill Creek Rd towards Kitsuma was brutal. A lady from Raleigh pulled up next to me and I realized we were both dead but still pedaling and that I could hang with her as inspiration to stay in my middle ring. We got to Kitsuma together and she pulled away on the into and then on the switchbacks. Every time I mounted and dismounted I had total cramping of both legs. I kept doing this though as it kept my feet from experiencing US military style torture.
The rest of Kitsuma was fun. Full speed descending followed by leg torture hike a bikes. Finding myself in the parking lot at the bottom was perhaps the best part of the day. From here it was a simple descent on the road, mostly big ring riding. I put the hammer down as hard as I could. I was thinking I don’t know what hour mark I’m gunning for, but maybe I have a chance. Well, I rolled in somewhere around 9 hours 15 minutes. Maybe a little less. I found Matt at his car, he’d ridden it in 7 hours 15 minutes and had to wait around for me. We hopped in the car and had a chill ride home. Windows down, no music on. Matt says once, “I could’ve saved 80 dollars and stayed home and rode the forest, and had just as much fun.” I see his point, but I think it was worth it. No faked mechanicals to slow me down. Pushing through cramping legs. And a time I can hopefully improve upon next year. For me, it was a great ride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

its been a month....write