Oh my goodness! That was my mantra for this race. Having blown through a slew of profanities earlier in the work week that would have made Yosemite Sam cringe, I promised myself that today cursing would only be acceptable if I broke a body part.
The weather at the start was perfect. A cool 52 degrees with a slight drizzle. The trails were dry and fast. Getting up towards the front at the start, I didn't have to fight through the usual drove of racers and was making great time through the Dry Creek section. Despite my addiction to CrossFit, my legs felt the best they have all season. The first 7 miles the trail was highlighted by the controlled burn that had recently taken place. The trail was leafy brown, while the rest of the forest floor was black. With body memory at 100%, I was able to rail the loose corners with ease. I ended up reeling in several who had started out at greyhound pace.
Around mile 14, the drizzle turned to a light rain. It felt great, at first, helping to cool the engine, but when it began to intensify and the trail turned to a stream, conditions deteriorated quickly. The trail became slickety slicker n snot, and the pinball games began. I still managed a decent time through the Dry Creek section and headed up the double track to start the real race ... the remaining 30 miles.
The rain had stopped, but the damage had been done. I was wishing I had left my fender on as the drops of mud began to build up on my glasses. I felt sloth slow through the muddy sections, but with the Pisgah Stage Race looming, I did not want any mishaps. Jen caught me at the exact same location as the January race. I was hoping to hold her off until at least Snake Creek Gap, but she was just too powerful. I made a brief attempt at holding her wheel, but when I saw my HR in the red zone, I was smart enough to back off and just ride my own race.
The descent off the backside of Pine Hill was interesting. Talk about an 8 second bull ride! I held on for dear life, feathering the brakes just enough to keep contact with the ground and prevent any tree-kissing. After the road crossing, I slogged through energy sapping mud around the Pilcher's Pond area. Somehow I managed to clean the steep switchback to begin the climb up Horn Mountain. Trail conditions improved and I began to see the tread in my tires again. With the sun coming out and temperatures rising, I found my happy place rolling the rocky ridge line and picking off the 4 climbs.
Coming into the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I was making great race, not far off my 2017 time. The volunteers were NASCAR ready, helping me to switch out nutrition and even cleaning my glasses! My bike looked awful, with the drive train being caked in mud, but it was amazingly quiet. I continued onward, up the sustained Middle Mountain climb. This is a beast and I consider this the hardest of the course. Not because it is overly technical or steep, but it comes at a point in the race where I always feel the first signs of fatigue: heavy legs, strained breathing, falling heart rate. Once up and over, I consider myself to be in the home stretch, especially once I hit the descent down to Swamp Creek.
The rain and 150+ racers doing the 34 and 17 had wreaked havoc on this down hill. Frustrated that I could not go with the ferocity I am used to, I had a few "Oh my goodness" moments in the sloppy conditions. The double track climb out of Swamp Creek was messy as well. Not only was I getting bogged down by the mud, but my body seemed to be shutting down. Nutrition was on point, but not having logged the training miles as in years before, my fitness was subpar.
By the time I reached the Dug Gap single track, I was gassed. I stopped at the tent and grabbed a handful of shot blocks and devoured them as I pedaled away. It gave me a brief respite as I had to slow down in order to breathe in between chewing. Once finishing my little bite of goodness, I turned the pace up and began inching my way towards the finish line. I felt confident that I would secure the buckle and a solid second place performance. Now the battle was to get to as close to my 2017 finishing time as possible.
For the most part, the mud was gone and the trail was dry, but through the trickier sections, I was doing more spinning out and bobbling among the rocks than usual. I had 3 slow speed crashes and could do nothing more than laugh at my predicament. A cuss word or two may have slipped between my lips.
I was ecstatic to see the cell towers and knew the suffering was almost over. Spencer, one of my team mates, had been riding/walking with me along the last few miles, and encouraged me to "drill it" to the finish. I told him, as I crawled along the last 1/2 mile, "This IS me drilling it!" HA!
|Got my mineral and probiotic intake for the day!|
I finished in 5:45:11, losing most of those minutes in the last 10 miles. Disappointed in that, but knowing that this year is a slow work up to my ultimate fitness goal, I was happy to finish securely in second place. $500 is not too shabby for a day's play!
|Helping Jen to the top step while Lara is all smiles with a solid 3rd place!|
Thank you once again to the NWGA SORBA crew, as their monumental efforts ensured another awesome day on the bike in the North Georgia woods!