Thursday, February 7, 2013

Snake Creek Gap TT Race # 2 Report

Most people would have chosen, upon awakening (and seeing the forecast), to avoid The Great Outdoors, and instead, prepare for the Super Bowl festivities.  I, on the other hand, was on a mission to further my chances of collecting the Belt Buckle.

Completing all 3 races is easier said than done!

So despite a 22 degree start, a 2 foot deep, 15 yard creek crossing in the first mile of the race, and threat of sleet, snow, and ice, I awoke at 5:30 am to begin the journey.

I had made the necessary preparations to ensure dry and warm feet on today's ride.  Two pairs of socks with a chemical warmer in each shoe, duct tape on the shoe, and large animal O.B. sleeves over the shoes held in place by soccer socks with the feet cut off.

At the end of the race, the feet were toasty.

The ground was frozen so the course was really fast ... at first.  Even the mud bogs on the first double track climb had a frozen tire track rut that you could shoot through at high speeds like a slot car!  I was feeling better than last month and the legs were ready from the get go.  I managed to start behind only 30+ people instead of 100+ last month, so the traffic was light.  I made good time through the first half and was 4 minutes faster than January's time.  Second place was in sight!

You would not know from my smile that it was 25 degrees with a wind chill in the teens.  Photo by Joe Cattoni.

After a quick stop in the parking lot to grab some nutrition, I began the second half in earnest.  I was still feeling good and thinking a sub 3:30 was a possibility.  At about the halfway point of the second 17, it began to snow.  Not a lot, but the flakes were big!  It was kind of surreal and brought back memories of racing along the Laurel Mountain Trail in the first Pisgah Stage Race.  I was still enjoying the ride and relishing the final descent down to the multiple small creek crossings.  However, my bike felt really harsh going down and I was having some difficulty controlling her.  I though that perhaps I was just getting tired, but I seemed to feel every single bump in the trail.  As I was crossing the final creek, I noticed that my fork was not compressing ... at all!

This was going to get interesting as I really need some squish during the last 6 miles of rocky single track.  I had plenty in the rear but none up front.  Call it a reverse hardtail.  And so I entered, determined to beat January's time.  And the snow came down even harder, interspersed with sleet/ice.  All of a sudden the rocks got really shiny!  Talk about feeling like a pinball.  Between a rigid fork and slick rocks, I was all over the place.  How I managed to stay upright, I dunno.

I eventually caught up to Lisa Randall and rode with her for awhile.  I wanted to push her a bit so that she had the opportunity to achieve her goal as well.  (Little did I know that in about 10 minutes the conditions would deteriorate quickly).  I am excited that she is going to be my PMBAR and DD partner this year.  She is one tough chicka when it comes to adventure racing!

Lisa eventually let me on around ... I think she was getting a little frustrated with the conditions as well .  It started to sleet pretty hard by the time I ran up The Wall.  As I got back on the bike, I could not, for the life of me, clip back in.  WTF!  I dismounted, turned my shoe over, and saw that my cleat was encased in a block of ice!  Great, just great!  I managed to bang enough of it off that I could semi clip in.  But whenever the terrain got rough, which was pretty much the remainder of the course, my feet would pop out.  This is not conducive to breaking time barriers.  That, along with the lack of a fork, made for a 1-2 mile "run-a-bike" section.  I did my best to protect my beloved ACL's.  The terrain was just as treacherous running as riding.  I saw all hope of a sub 3:30 slipping away as well as 2nd place.

No Danielle, I am still not sold on fat bikes.  Photo by Joe Cattoni.

I managed to shave a couple minutes off January's time and I was happy with that.  I finished safe and sound and with a smile ... and I'll take it!  It's more about the ride and not the placing.

1/8" sheet of ice on the bike at the finish.

The February running of The Snake is always the most brutal.  I thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of the trail.  Even though I have ridden or raced this course countless times, there are so many variables that each time it is different.

One more to go ...

No comments: