Monday, September 5, 2011


It is 10 am on Monday September 5.  At this point I had expected to be pedaling up Strawberry Mountain, not blogging about calling it quits with only 13 hours and 115 miles into this monster of a race.  I had what I thought was a solid race/fueling/rest plan but I was also mentally prepared to adapt to hiccups along the way.

Pumped at the start!

I felt great at the start.  We all took off at a conversational pace.  Once we hit the first gravel climb, the pack broke up.  I was in my happy all day pace and slowly watched people pass me one by one.  A lot of standing and cranking going on around me while I just sat and stayed all spinny, using granny early on.  The roads were in good shape; there had been some rain the day before and the gravel was a bit more settled than when I had reconned this section back in July.

I slowly started reeling the others back in once we hit the climb up to Blackstump Gap along FS155.  This is a doozy with steep pitches and super loose gravel.  A couple times I had to get off and push a bit as my rear wheel would lose traction and spin out.  No worries, though.  Walking was good as it kept me from digging too deep too early.

I walked my bike down the Darnell Creek Horse Trail until I got to the purple painted tree.  Here I dropped trowel and urinated.  It was 10 am.  I then motored on and enjoyed the gradual descent down to Hwy 441.  I refilled my 70 ounce bladder at the post office; they had an outdoor spigot.  It was now 11:15 am.  A little over 3 hours in and I had drank close to 80 ounces of fluid.

From there I began the arduous task of climbing up to 3 more gaps before I would hit the fun descent down to Moccasin Creek State Park.  I was feeling great at this point and my mantra was, "Don't force the climbs.  Let the gaps come to you."  I alternated between my middle ring and my granny as the terrain dictated, keeping my feet light on the pedals.  I continued to drink every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes.  I kept my mind busy by going over my refueling plan and making sure my body was taking in enough.

I never really felt hot, but was later told that temperatures hit 96 degrees.  Granted I had sweat dripping from my nose and elbows, but I felt o.k.  That is, until I picked up FS164 off of Hwy 76.  This is at about mile 58.  When I started descending, I started getting "hot foot."  The pain was intermittent and more of a nuisance at this point.

I rolled into Moccasin Creek State Park at about 3:30 pm.  I stopped at the campground for water and a short break.  When I kneeled down to open my Camelbak, my left hamstring cramped.  Yowzer!  I stood back up and the cramping stopped.  It was then that I noticed just how salt-stained my shorts were.  After refilling with another 60 ounces of water, I ate a Hammer bar and took a few Endurolytes.

Although my chain was holding up quite well, what with all the creek crossings, I decided to do some preventative maintenance and lube it up with some ProGold Extreme.  When I reached in to my back pocket for the tiny bottle, I found nothing!  Apparently it had yard-saled itself in the past 3 hours.  I guess now I would get to see just how good of a product ProLink has. (BTW, the chain was quiet all day!)

After about 20 minutes, I headed for Addis Gap.  The climb up Wildcat Creek (FS26-1) is gentle compared to the previous climbs, but was not any easier.  It was here that I had the first inkling of fatigue.  I figured that this was just my 60-70 mile slump period which I usually have when doing hundies.  So as I climbed, I counted calories and ounces and was right on track.  However, I was continually interrupted by the nagging pain in my feet which slowly began radiating up my toes.  By the time I got to the top, it felt as if someone was stabbing the balls and toes of my feet with a searing hot dagger.  I stopped at the top for a moment.  I dropped trowel and attempted to pee ... nothing.  Let me remind you that this was about 7 hours after my first pee.  Not good!

I applied more Chamois Butt'r, forced myself to drink 10 ounces immediately and began the descent.  Man o man, that was some sloppy, stupid descending.  Every jolt sent waves of pain through my forefoot.  I was lucky to stay upright.

The climb up Tray Mountain was miserable.  This 10 mile loose gravel climb did me in.  What normally takes me 1 1/2 hours on a loaded bike took a little over 2 hours today.  Each pedal stroke hurt and then my knees started to hurt.  This was probably due to a sloppy pedal stroke caused by me trying to find a painless way to pedal.  I got off the bike and tried to walk; that hurt more.  So back on the bike. 

This was just not fun anymore.  Yeah, I love to suffer, all ultra-endurance racers do ... but not in this fashion.  With night falling, I made the decision that if the fun did not come back by Helen, I was out!  I got to ride Hickory Nut in the dark.  Thankfully, the 4 racers ahead of me had cleaned it up a bit.  As riding was less painful than walking, I rode more of it than I ever had.  Got squirrely a few times, but managed to keep the rubber side down.

I stopped at the convenience store at the intersection of Hwy 356 and Hwy 75, went inside, and purchased some food to see me through to the next refueling point.  By this point, it was 9 pm.  My feet actually felt slightly better, so I motored over to Wendy's, eat, and reassess my body.

Hoping this would make me feel better.

While waiting in line for my food, I started getting light headed.  I then began to see stars.  Sensing that I was going to pass out, I immediately sat down.  The dizziness subsided, but I got some strange looks from those around me.  I guess they were not used to seeing (or smelling) a fully kitted dirty mountain bike racer who had just raced 102 miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest.

After eating one of the most delicious Wendy's meals EVER, I made the decision to ride up HogPen and find some place to settle for the night.  I went to the restroom and urinated.  A decent volume but pretty yellow.  This was my second pee of the day. 

My feet were still hurting a little, but I was praying that the pain would eventually turn to numbness.  I called my family and told them of my plans.  I left Wendy's at 10 pm.

I was feeling o.k. riding out to the base of Hogpen.  But once the pavement started going up, my body imploded once again.  It was taking me 12-14 minutes to ride one mile and my foot and knee pain returned with just as much intensity as before. 

With no regrets, I stopped at a pull over and called Zeke.  At 11 pm it was game over!  Continuing would only be stupidly selfish on my part.  I had not only myself to be worried about, but I have a loving husband and wonderful daughter who need me.

Looking back at that day now, I could have made some choices that probably would have prevented my moderate electrolyte depletion/dehydration.  I could have stopped and layed over at Moccasin Creek or Helen, replenished, and rested.  At the time, I did not think I was dehydrated.  During the first 12 hours, I had drank 200+ ounces of  fluid. Apparently I was sweating it out faster than I could take it in. 

However, I don't think that would have fixed my foot issue.  In prior races, I would have bouts of metatarsal pain, but it always went away.  Today it did not go away; it only intensified.  Ultimately, I would have had to throw in the towel at some point. 

Then there was the fact that Tropical Depression Lee was fast approaching.  Prior to my debacle, I had accepted the fact that I was probably going to have to ride for 12-18 hours in the rain.  On a good day, I have the strength and will power to do that.  But when my body started failing, so did the mind. 

I guess my only regret is that I did not make it to Mulberry Gap.  I was so looking forward to the camaraderie and Ginni's fabulous grub.  Bailing there would have been a lot more fun!

Live and learn to race again!


Mark D. said...

so any ideas on what caused the foot pain?? I struggle with that at times myself and have yet to figure out any rhyme or reason to it.

nice job BTW.

Unknown said...

So bummed to hear you didn't make it, but it sounds like it was definitely the right choice. On the up side, it has already rained over 5 inches here in Chatt since last night! That would have sucked pedaling through and the trails would be horrible.
Come ride with us soon!!

Emily said...

thanks for the write-up Carey! It was cool to see you pushing out of your comfort zone by taking on this challenge. Good job being brave enough to quit when it was necessary. Sometimes doing that is harder than pushing on towards disaster.

Carey Lowery said...

Mark D.

Not sure why the pain was so intense. No change in shoes/cleat position. Perhaps the additional weight of a bike packing rig (41 pounds of bike/gear), although I did a couple overnighters with this set up and no foot issues. Gonna have to figure this one out ... soon!