Sunday, February 14, 2016

Snake Creek Gap TT 50 Mile Race Report

You have to fight for every mile on The Snake!

Having an impromptu pit stop enroute to the start line was a foreboding sign but was quickly dismissed as the "race day jitters." Besides, I was pre occupied with what to wear, going over what seemed like 3000 possibilities.

It was dark when I arrived at the Dry Creek parking lot.  Stepping out into a pile of horseshit should have been another sign of a potentially "shitty" day.  I swear ... one day ... I am going to poo just outside the door of a horseman's vehicle!  Horse feces is no different than human and people should respect each other enough to use a pooper scooper.  It ... is ... not ... that ... difficult ... to ... clean ... up ... the ... mess ... that ... your ... animals ... create.  Just pure laziness and disrespect in my book!

Another attack 20 minutes prior to the start and I became a little nervous about my GI distress.  You see, I had recently finished taking a round of antibiotics for mastoiditis and had been having some issues.  Surely, between the "making race weight" back at home and these two additonal breaks, I had no more offerings to the "poop" Gods.

Oh well, back to race kit decisions. With subfreezing temps and a brisk wind, I had the bottom half figured out, but not the top half. Fortunately I made the right decision and was just a tad chilly at the start, despite the running in place for 10 minutes while awaiting the 8am start.

The crowd seemed thinner than January's edition and I was closer to the front.  Starting off with a single track climb, my legs felt fresh.  I must give Virginia Lee of  "Hands On Healing Southside" (soon to be Revive) a huge shout out for her massage on Thursday that revived my dead legs.  Ladies, I highly recommend her services!

The 18 mile prologue went by quickly and easily.  Trail conditions were perfect!  The muddy spots of last month were gone.  After 30 minutes, my fingers thawed out and all body parts were toasty.  The legs were happy and my RPE was where it should be.  Remembering how I felt last month, I was assured after this section that I would easily better my time.

Heading up the fire road to the first single track section, the gravels seemed to have settled and the climb was more pleasant than last month.  I was in my own little bubble of happiness entering the single track. I was riding my new bike, the Niner RKT 9 RDO, and the rear end traction was a noticeable improvement over my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  Must be the shorter chainstays.

The descents were a little tricky as the cold wind made my eyes water to the point of blurriness.  At times I had to rely on trail memory to see me safely down.  On the final climb before heading to the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, my guts began to churn.  I hopped off the bike and immediately fertilized a tree.  Thank God I had decided to go with tights as opposed to bibs!  Finishing the climb, Kaysee Armstrong came up and made a pass on me.  Having just come off a 2nd place finish at Trans Andes, she still looked strong.  Using this race as a recovery ride, no doubt!

I followed her down to the SAG stop.  Guts still rolling, I forced myself to chug a Red Bull.  While shedding my Buff and head gear, Laureen rolled on through without stopping.  Kaysee was about to throw a tantrum in the pits until she found the box of doughnuts.  While a mechanic got her bike back to working order (Kaysee had hastily built it up the night prior and was having some issues), she found her happy place again.

Meanwhile I took off, shouting out to her that I was her "rabbit."  That first climb out of the parking lot was brutal ... and went on forever.  It felt like they added an extra half mile to it.  I tried to bridge the gap back up to Laureen ... until I had to make another gift to the forest. Ugh!  How could one so little have so much?!?  At this point, I began to realize that my race had gone from sparkly to one of survival.  Rather than beat myself up, I was determined to enjoy, as much as possible, the last 14 miles.

Thankfully, I only had to make one more short pit stop,  I made a game out of the last miles, bound and determined to not let Kaysee catch me on the long descent to the mutiple creek crossings.  I let it loose, following a single speeder's line, and had fun raging it!  Kaysee didn't catch me until the final fire road climb up to the last bit of gnar.  My energy stores were on "E" and I just settled into recovering on the climb so that I could have some fun on the rocks.  Not being totally gassed when riding the last 7 miles makes it so much more fun.  I found new lines as I made my way around some 34 milers.  As much as I enjoyed the last few miles, I was still extremely happy to see the towers telling me the end was near.

I rolled through the finish in 4:45 and some change.  Fortunately my January time was good enough for me to finish third.

In awesome company ... Jamie took 1st and Kaysee 2nd

I was skeptical of the change up for this year's Snake.  Although I would prefer to have just a 34/17 mile event as those trails are the "heart" of the Snake, I do understand how difficult it is to have a 3 event series in a point to point race and the enormous amount of volunteer hours it takes to run something of this magnitude.  We racers are very fortunate to have this longstanding event, as alot of good races have not been able to withstand the test of time.  A big double fist pump to all of the volunteers!


Emil Walcek said...

Congrats on your place-making Snake ride! Achievements like yours are inspiring, and earn respect from guys like me who simply enjoy a day in the woods while making the most of the mechanical advantage my MTB provides. I manage to find a friend or 2 and a trail every weekend year round in GA - but I’m definitely a C group rider and in a whole other category than racers. To pay my dues I'm a regular volunteer on trail maintenance, although in this activity my efforts also pale in comparison to others who work a lot more hours to sustain our trails.

I write this to help counter the negative views you and many other MTBers have about horses on our trails. From over a decade of experience, I can say (with support from North GA MTB clubs), that if not for one particular horse group, the CTHA (Chattahoochie Trail Horse Assoc.), many of our trails would not be in the shape they are today. Indeed we may have lost trails without them. Our MTB clubs wish they could show a fraction of the commitment of CTHA volunteers have to our trails over the years.

Do horses cause trail wear and tear? Yes, and even more than hikers and mountain bikes. Is there more to gain than loose when all trail users work together to secure and maintain our trails? No doubt in my mind, especially in light of the ongoing threats of trail closings.

Apart from being highly impractical to suggest a horse rider dismount to cleanup horse waste, it is unnecessary. All poop is biodegradable, but not all poop is the same. Horses are vegans and their waste is essentially manure. It does not contain the parvovirus, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, threadworms, campylobacteriosis, giardia, and coccidia that may be present in dog or other omnivore poop. We need to get beyond the yuck factor. Let’s stop disparaging other non-motorized trail users.

Carey Lowery said...


I do realize that horseman and women play a vital role in establishing and maintaining a lot of wonderful trail systems I ride. I have no quibble with them about enjoying the trails as I do. I am very respectful when I come upon them: I dismount, remove myself and my bike from the trail, and even take off my helmet and glasses for those horses who are nervous around cyclists, and allow them to pass me, all the while taking the time to talk with them.

And I can deal with the poo on the trail by practicing my hopping skills. The yuck factor I am talking about is when I step out of my vehicle in a parking lot and sink my casual shoes into a pile of poo. I am a veterinarian and in the past have practiced on horses. My clients who brought their horses to me were respectful enough to pull the shovel out of their trailer and clean up after their animals on my property. Perhaps a little more respect could go into keeping the parking lot free of feces that is used not only by horseman, but also by cyclists and hikers. All I am asking for is a 2 minutes of their time.

I am all for positivity when it comes to keeping trails open to all users. We are all in this together, for the same reason ... happiness!

Carey Lowery said...

And, no, I would never poo outside someone's vehicle. I may daydream about it and have a mental laugh or two, but in reality, I am not that kind of person.