|Schwag bag was also the drop bag.|
I managed to line up within the first few rows (250 racers in all) and patiently waited for someone to yell, "Go!" Instead, I was momentarily stunned by a blast from a cannon, which I swear to God was right next to me, although I never saw it. I will remember that next year.
The start was FAST and hectic. I rubbed wheels with more than one racer. How I managed to stay upright I don't know; perhaps it is my "cat-like" skills. There were 3 gradual miles climbing on loose gravel before the single track so I settled into a slightly higher effort than I wanted, but knew that I could recover from. Catharine passed me pretty quickly, but I managed to stay within sight of her and slowly reeled her back in. As we entered the single track, I was a few racers behind her.
Settling into "stealth" mode I took it easy and watched my competition for any signs of weakness. I really knew nothing about her, other than she raced road and cross. The first section of single track was wide, smooth, and rolling ... big ring territory!
After about 10 minutes, I realized that although I was not as powerful as her, I had the upper hand in the technical stuff. I made a pass when she bobbled on a sketchy climb, dug deep to open a gap, and settled into a 5 hour race pace after about 15 minutes.
|All smiles on the pre--ride.|
The race takes place on the Ozark and Berryman Trails. These alternate between ridge tops and creek bottoms. The topography is gently rolling; the longest climb was probably 0.2 miles and at a relatively easy grade. This, combined with dry conditions, made for a superfast course. I spent a lot of time in the big ring. What made it technical in areas was the loose rocky soil, horse damage, and erosion on some of the climbs/descents.
On one of the side cut sections in the first 11 miles, my front tire washed out and down I went. After a quick assessment of bike (o.k.) and body (few scrapes/bruises), I remounted and raced on. After a few more miles of finding my rhythm in the loose terrain, I became one with the trail.
I rode most of the horsed-up switchbacks down to Brazil Creek and the first checkpoint. 11 miles in :58:47; on pace with the pain cave no where in sight. I grabbed my first zip-tie and motored on.
The next 10 miles flew by on this sh!ts and giggles trail! I love the Berryman; no hour long granny gear climbs followed by foreverish descents. Just a constant up and down and carving through the "S-curves." Momentum and brake feathering are your friends. I rolled into the Berryman campground at the second checkpoint in 1:57. Mia told me that I was 17 minutes off the leaders and roughly in the top 25. I grabbed my second zip-tie, went over to where my drop bag was and grabbed another bottle and once again was off.
This next section of trail was perhaps the most difficult. I encountered a 30 yard sand trap (which I ran through), a couple steep loose climbs, and a lot of "horsed-up" sections of trail. It was here that I slowly began reeling in guy after guy after guy. Some jumped onto my wheel after I made the pass, to which I then asked if they wanted back on by. They responded that they were just trying to hang on and within a few minutes, I heard them no more.
After popping out onto a jeep trail, grabbing my 3rd zip-tie, I then hauled a$$ back on 5 miles of fire road. I felt great on the roads and was able to enter the pain cave with a smile on my face. I made the 1.3 mile paved climb back up to the Berryman campground with ease and grabbed my final zip-tie. I glanced down at my watch and it read 3:27:14! Oh yeah, a sub-5 hour was on the horizon. I had 16 miles to go, with 6.5 of that being a slightly rolling to mostly descending fire road back to the finish. I refilled my Camelbak and was off on the final 10 miles of single track.
|The single track from the Berryman campground where I pre-rode the day before.|
The first couple miles was technical with ledgey drops and lots of roots. I had ridden this the day before so I was able to fly through it today.
|Nowhere where I live can you ride a one trail for 36.5 miles. Gotta come back and go explorin'.|
Several guys had passed me, but not Catharine. Whew! It took a couple miles to get my mojo back and get back up to speed. But I did and soon began passing those that had passed me. Then at mile 46 my rear tire exploded!! Not again! The Gods must have been angry. I stopped and saw this:
|From the tread almost to the bead! The "white" is an empty hammer gel packet.|
I had managed to lose my patch during the last tire change. Fortunately a racer named Rock stopped and gave me one of his patches. It barely covered the gaping hole. This time I pumped 250 times as both the patch and tube began to bulge out. Crap! I got back on and rode like an exhausted beginner, fearing another flat and not having any more tubes. At about mile 48, I found an empty Hammer gel packet. Thank God for litterbugs! I deflated my tube, popped the bead, and inserted the Hammer get packet. For the third time I pumped 250 strokes! Unfortunately for my upper body and mental soundness, I did not seat the patch perfectly and it poked through the hole. I let the air out again, repositioned, and pumped 250 more times! Can you believe not one swear word was uttered?
At some point during this fiasco, Catharine had passed me in stealth mode. I kind of figured this was going to happen as now I was 45 minutes into screwing around with my rear tire. Rock came by me once again and this time gave me his only tube; I had refused before as I did not want him without. He did not give me the opportunity to refuse this time, saying as he rode by and dropping the tube at my feet, "I am tired of you passing me." What a man!
Fearful that my tire would not hold up under a lot of pressure or speed, I limped on into the finish, taking nearly 30 minutes to cover the last road section. The last thing I wanted to happen at this point was me taking a digger at 30 mph on the descent if my tire completely disintegrated or having to run the last 5 miles to the finish. The last time I had a DNF was in 2003 at a SERC XC race where I double-flatted and I was NOT going to here.
|Still smiling and taking $100 home for 2nd.|
This race was awesome. Kudos to Scott and Ryan for a fun well-marked course, great venue, food, band, and raffle. I am already planning on the 2011 edition!
A big thanks to Steve Mathews at Paceline Products for the support in getting to Missouri. Perhaps if I had used the Chamois Butt'r on my tire as well as my behind, the outcome would have been different.