Monday, April 07, 2008

2008 dragon's back xxc mtb race

so its time to write about the dragon's back xxc mtb race. to start, the xxc part just means its an extra long xc race. er, it is supposed to take twice as long, er is 34 miles instead of 18 miles. does that describe what's going on?

the trip started picking ryan fawley up from ASU and hitting espresso news for some coffee. we stopped at exit 72 in VA for subway, and found a little caesar's next to subway. so we got subs, then got a hot'n'ready little caesar's pizza. the subway made for a great breakfast... so we roll into the camp area after drifting through plenty of turns on this peanut butter forest service road. sleeping proved difficult as rain dripped through the tent and kept me awake most of the night.

morning was a welcome sight. ryan had gone to sleep in the car as he didn't have a sleeping pad. after subway, some coffee (thanks aran) and registration i suited up for the next six hours...

the start was pretty unofficial. there was no gun, no whistle, people just started riding. so off i go. the road seemed to go by quickly. once we reached singletrack i could tell i my current gearing was not going to work, so i drop into my 22-34 and granny gear as far as i could. i rode a lot of the uphill that most people were walking, though i walked almost all the switchbacks, and passed probably 6 or 8 people before reaching the ridge. we'd just climbed from 1500' to 2800'. blah. i stopped and took off my jacket and made my way east on the ridge. this part is basically a blur of fog, wet leaves, roots, rocks and hallucinations. along the way i hopped off and walked some stretches that would normally be rideable, but knowing i had at least three hours to go i opted for walking (aka resting and fueling). i was popping bloks, bars, gels, and hammer HEED at random during my ride along the ridge. i wanted to make sure i didn't bonk later in the ride due to lack of food.

earlier at the start line i'd met brent jim and brad from paceline bicycles in winston. i rode with brent for a while. he'd said that they were sticking together and riding for fun, but it still made me happy when i dropped him. i think it was at this point when i noticed the dragon's scaly vertebrae remains showing through the dirt. essentially we'd been riding on what we thought was slate rocks just strewn every which way, then some were sticking vertically out of the ground and i realized it was some of the dragon's scales, well, maybe it was just rocks but either way it was OUR version of the cobbles. then i rode with chris davis from his partners put on the off road assault on mt mitchell. we rode together for a while, but he left me on one of the climbs. at one point the ridge teased us with a wicked downhill that convinced me it was the descent to the road. it wasn't, and my time in my 44t was short lived. after the 18th climb the ridge had to offer, the trail opened up and it was time to descend for a while. we dropped from 3000' to 1400' in about 5 miles. that was the funnest part of the day.

the next 5 miles seemed to take longer than the previous 10 miles on singletrack. the surface of the road was either newly laid apple sized gravel, knee deep creeks, or jif extra creamy peanut butter. it really sucked. on a dry race day this part would be time to get with other riders and institute road tactics and pacelines and what-not. oh, speaking of paceline... i had not seen anything of those guys since my 'attack' on one of the ridge sections... we actually were forced to cross the same knee deep creek (ie hubs and bottom bracket deep) five times!!!! i knew my BB was toast before starting the event.... now it sounds like rice crispies when you first put milk on them. oh well.

i stopped at our campsite for water refilling and to look for my banana that i brought and forgot to eat for breakfast. my legs kept requesting that i eat a banana but i couldn't find one along the trail and THEN when i finally got to my car i lacked the motivation to find my keys and unlock my car. oh well. i hopped back on my bike and two guys standing around drinking beer who'd presumedly raced some xc category (started after we xxc started and had finished before we'd finished) set their beers down to clap for me and cheer me on. they could tell who was xxc because we had a number plate type thing on our bars that simply said XX. our race numbers were on our camelbaks... as i rolled past the start/finish many other xc racers who'd finished their event and were loading up to leave paused and clapped or at least gave some encouraging words. its silly how just a nice word or smile can make you hurt less and convince you its all worth it. anyways

i neared a xxc racer on the road and we entered the second singletrack climb together. i quickly passed this person (fully suited in dirt rag apparel. i wanted to ask if he worked there?!?) and soon found a 29'er full suspension guy with an awesome fender. i rode with this fellow for a bit and eventually passed on a section i was pedaling and he was walking. i also passed a xc girl which wasn't as nice since that didn't move me higher in the placing. it was nice to know she'd slow down the others when it was their turn to pass though!!!!! =) i passed at least one or two more people before reaching the ridge, i think they were both xc racers who were questioning their existence and current location on a 3000' ridge and the impending 1500' descent. i stopped and chatted with two event organizers at the T with the ridge trail and discussed the smiley face and sad face drawn on my grips. they wanted me to smile. all i wanted to do was catch the singlespeed XXC guy that was just a few hundred feet ahead.

i tried to force myself to ride some of the small climbs that my legs wanted to walk up, though my two feet took over on a few of them still. lactic acid is not your friend. passing another xc rider, he asked if the ridge was almost over. i told him yes, though i knew there was at least a mile to go until the downhill. the singlespeed XXC guy had held me off and i was worried that on the descent his 29er wheels may give him the advantage so i let it all hang out on super narrow super exposed trail. i also had to worry about the 29er full suspension fender guy. i did not want anyone to pass me, especially since the last passer was chris davis ( guy) before descending the ridge earlier. coming into a wet leafy rocky poorly constructed 'jump' i opted to walk and found the SS guy on the ground recovering from his attempted jump. i asked if he was okay and quickly remounted my bike and flew down the last few switchbacks and remaining trail. it was over before i knew it and i was crossing the road for the ring of mud, er fire, er mud.

this section seemed out of place for the xxc course. maybe it helped split up the xc guys a bit but after the quality of what we'd just ridden, climbing out of a mudhole on slow singletrack only to be followed by a slow muddy road was not what i had in mind. oh well, BFH.

i overtook another xc racer while trying my hardest to catch another XXC. i couldn't catch anyone and when i pulled into the finishing area i could see someone fifty feet ahead and i knew it was too late. oh well. i hit stop on my garmin and it said 5:44 total time, i beat my goal of 6 hours. there were tons of people standing around eating, listening to music, drinking beer. harlan price was one of them. i heard he won the pro xc category. congrats harlan.

the boone bike contingency was strong in the XXC... darrell prillaman got 2nd (behind a semi pro), drew scharns got 3rd, smart tom got something like 6th, ryan fawley (appstate guy) got 9th, and aran cacciola got 11th. i don't think any of those guys were happy with their results but they all should be. i later found out i was 28th out of 48. although i later heard there were over 50 starters... that made me feel good. my first XXC race ever. my first mtb race of the year (since sept 22nd 2007).

gps info here

we rode 33.9 miles. climbed somewhere around 6500 feet. ascended from 1500' to 3000' at least twice. my average HR was 156bpm. descended one five mile (yes i said five mile) downhill. four gels, two clif bars, ten shot bloks, one bottle of sustained energy and heed, one camelbak, one camelbak refill. oh, and sadly, still, no bananas. i wish i'd taken some enduroltyes. at the end of my day i could feel me stomach churning trying to trick me into throwing up, but my legs still wanted electrolytes. oh well.

it was quite the experience and quite the place to fly the columbus bike racing colors. i'm glad i could do so and finish with a (somewhat) respectable finish. now its off to NUE stop #1 cohutta 100 then getting ready for my first solo 24 effort at the BURN 24. then its wedding time june 29th with my incredible fiance. =) for now its time to sleep...

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