My number was an omen. A sub-3:30 had been eluding me since 2009 when I pulled a 3:27 on my single speed. That had me wondering if I should race gears or single. Coach said single since I had a big time in Florida.
I left the parking lot along with my team mates in Rick Moon's limo at 7:30. Waking up at 5 am paid off, as I ended up only being behind 20 racers and most of them were insanely fast. I opted for the aero look and so chose not to wear the palpation sleeves on my feet, taking my chances with the creek crossing from hell.
The legs were heavy at first so I just rode hoping they would come around ... or not, so that I would not have to "race." As I rode along the fire road, my race almost ended as quickly as it began. Some antsy dude in a blue kit (Biker's Choice?) decided to pass me on the right. As he bunny hopped a small log, he about took out my front wheel with his rear wheel. I swear his ass grazed my right elbow. I think "Jesus!" escaped my lips on that one.
With my adrenalin in over drive now, I hit the creek with vigor. The creek was high but not as high as February. My left foot got wet a bit but not enough to bother me.
As I began the double track climb, something happened that has eluded me since Fool's Gold. My legs were "sparkly." Well, crap, now I gotta go! I began marking racers in front of me and picking them off one by one.
Once I entered the single track and made that first initial climb, I felt good enough to throw it in the big ring and go! This feeling had not been with me the first two races ... granny had been my best friend then. After the second creek crossing, the forest service had done some dozer work to create a fire break for a recent controlled burn. This 1 mile section was pretty tore up with some nice muddy spots, but overall, I did not think it hurt my progress any ... just got to work on my hike a bike skills some. It was also at this point that I noticed some "ghost shifting" when I would pedal as the rear suspension compressed. I made some adjustments at the shifter and it "seemed" to go away ...
The descent down to the Snake Creek parking lot was just tacky enough to be blazing fast. I was super duper happy with my Specialized Ground Control tires as they shed all that mud previously and then held tightly onto the trail as I railed the corners. As I rolled up to the SAG stop, I looked down at my speedo and saw a 1:30. Really?!? Well, ladies and gents, I am officially racing to the finish! I did a "swapparoo" and gulped down a Red Bull.
Anyone who has done this race knows that the climb out of the Snake Creek gap parking lot is arduous, especially after stopping at the aid station. In the first 100 meters the legs are burning and the pedals just don't want to turn over. It always takes me a few minutes to get back into a rhythm. Today though, something made it easier to climb to the top. As I began, I heard, ever so faintly, a cheering voice and a cowbell. The closer to the top, the louder it became. Whoever you are, you MADE my day! What a morale booster: You made that climb easy. My legs fed off your enthusiasm. And that little push on my saddle at the end helped, too!
Back into the big ring I rode those ridges as if I was back at Santos. At this point I was feeling "Oh so good!" and I probably had the energy to have singled it today. (And had I been able to see into the future, I should have) I entered the final stretch of single track at 2:19. At this point, I knew that second was mine to lose and I had a chance, be it ever so slight, at first.
But then my bike decided to misbehave! The fork died ... again. Seriously? I had just had it rebuilt a month ago, after it died on this very same section of the race. I tried to stay focused and positive. My new mantra was, "Suspension is over rated." And then, as the trail got rockier, my shifting was ALL OVER THE PLACE. The slightest compression in the rear would cause it to skip, fall off the little ring, chain suck, or get jammed between the lower derailleur pulley and the cage.
I am sure I was quite the spectacle. I began chastising my bike like a Mom would her child who had just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Was I talking to my bike or Carly? Eventually I just had to HTFU, put it in the big ring and mash! I rode when I could and ran when I could not. My bike had went from a geared full suspension to a single speed reverse hard tail with too tall a gear. Staying positive, I told myself that at least my cleats were not iced over. And besides, who needs suspension and shifty parts on the most technically demanding section of the Snake anyways?
I was never so happy to see the cell towers which signaled the end of the single track and the beginning of a 2 mile descent to the finish. I hammered so hard down that descent I thought my legs were going to explode. I crossed the finish line in 3:29:34! Despite the adversity, I accomplished all 3 goals I laid out: belt buckle, sub 3:30, and 2nd place.
|1st was in France, 3rd and 4th decided to go home early.|
A huge shout out to NWGA SORBA and all the volunteers who braved extreme conditions for all 3 runnings of The Snake. I think they had it harder than us racers. Kudos to Shanna with Endless Bikes for trying to ramp up the ladies SS field by doling out huge sums of money. Thank you Ginni and Mulberry Gap for having unlimited hot coffee to warm me up post race.
And I think the hunger monster just disemboweled the gluten monster last night. I woke up at 3 am to a rumbling stomach (in a good way). 20 cashews seemed to satisfy the beast!