|Kevin, an inspiration to many!|
The race started out with a painful climb out of the Lula Lake Land Trust and onto the highway. My short warm up was not enough and my legs were barking. I missed making the lead group and played catch up for the next 6 miles. All the while a gentle rain was coming down. I was able to keep most of it out of my eyes with my front fender, shower cap, and glasses.
Once we turned into the 5 Points single track, all traction was lost. Think about a water park, but instead of getting an inner tube, you have a bike. It was a 15+ mile Slip n' Slide. I was trying to make up the time I lost on the descents "swapping ends" by digging a little bit harder on the climbs. Unfortunately, I left my climbing legs at home. However, I did have my rock garden legs on and was very happy on CapRock ... I just wished there were more rocks.
Coming through the Ascalon trailhead, I skipped the aid station and motored onto the pavement for a short ways before dumping into the next bit of single track. I was a little nervous about the rock garden on Barkeater and the super technical Kindergarden Trail. Fortunately the trail was clear and I was able to find my groove. Aside from the short, planned 10 yard run on Barkeater, I cleaned Kindergarden without any "oh crap" moments. I was amazed at the traction I had on the wet rocks. And yeah, it was still raining.
Coming back into the Ascalon trailhead, Lisa called out that I was only 2 minutes behind Nina. Seriously? I had felt so slow through the mud of 5 Points that I expected her to be much farther ahead. For some reason, I did not have "the fight" in me to give chase. I kept my same happy racing pace and hoped for the best.
Tailings Run is super fun when dry, but due to its tight, twisty, up/down 1/2 track, in the mud it is very sketchy. I had a grand "Oh, shit!" moment here when I came into a corner too fast and about launched off the mound into the woods below. How the heck I managed to save it I do not know, but it wasn't too long after the near catastrophe, that I came upon Nina. Apparently Mother Nature called ... or she was changing her diaper (which is pretty much what our shorts/bibs had turned into by this point). Anyhoo, she quickly hopped on her bike and caught up to me.
We talked a bit and then went back into competition mode, with me giving her the trail. I just wasn't super amped to turn myself inside out on this "slicker 'n snot on a doorknob" trail after what has just recently happened. I kept her insight for the remainder of 5 Points, but once we crossed the road onto the CCT, she slowly pulled away.
The CCT felt very monotonus. I kept wanting to see the right-hand turn onto the Long Branch community's trail system. It reminded me of climbing up the Buckhorn Gap Trail in Pisgah. After 1320 corners, I finally saw the signage for the turn. This section of the course is old school primitive trail. Lots of rocks, roots, and moss, with a healthy dose of creek crossings and one nice hike a bike. I was in my happy place and was able to push just a bit harder.
I stopped at the aid station, dropped my CamelBak, and grabbed a bottle for the final push. After a short road section, I took a left onto some double track that led back to the Lula Lake trails. It was all about taking baby steps on the steeper double track. Once onto the trails (Turkey, Jedi, Homestead, Creek) I was back in my happy place. I actually found the single track here to be easier than at 5 Points. It had held up well under the rains and traction was great.
Coming down the Ford Trail I about clotheslined my bike with this rope stretched across the trail. What the ...? Then I saw it go across the creek that after last night became a river. (The last time I crossed this it was only calf deep. Today it took all I could muster to hold my bike with one hand as high over my shoulder as my fatigued muscles would allow. With the other hand I had a death grip on the rope. The water rose to my crotch ... then to my waist ... then to just below my HR strap. Slipping and sliding my way on the rocks hidden beneath the muddy surge of water, I managed to cross without any mishap.
Climbing back up, I began to smell barbeque. Knowing I still had another 8-10 miles left, I did not let seeing the finish discourage me. One last push up to the pavement and I settled into a nice cadence for the 2 mile stretch of pavement.
And then a left onto the infamous PowerLine climb. The last time I had done this race back in 2013, this section almost left me demoralized as 2nd place caught me here while I was pushing my bike. Today, I was in a much better state of mind. And having not blown myself up in the first half of the race, the climb was not so bad. I managed to avoid most of the peanut butter mud. Back into the woods, I cruised through the ATV trails with relative ease. After a nice descent, I arrived at an unmarked split. Uh, oh! Do I go left through the creek or right? I did not remember this crossing from 2 years ago. And I could not make out any tire tracks either way. After a minute or so, another racer came through and assured me that course crossed the creek.
Some more short climbs followed by one last gnarly descent where I had my 2nd "Oh shit!" moment as I nose-wheelied off the unexpected rock drop. Fortunately I managed to reflexively grab the right brake and get my ass back down.
I climbed back out onto the road for a short bit of pavement before heading back down the gravel road to the finish. I had to quickly scrub some speed on the steep pavement section when the left turn came up a bit too quickly. I rolled under the finish banner in 5:18, 2 minutes down from Nina.
I had a fabulous day on the bike despite the conditions. For me it was a mentally challenging day. But once I got my head right, I enjoyed the mud and the slick conditions. It is races like these that will make you a better technical rider.
There was only a brief moment of the "shoulda, woulda, coulda's." After seeing that I was only 2 minutes down from 1st, I thought that maybe if I had just pushed it a bit harder, I might have had a fighting chance of pulling out a win. But, during the race, when I tried going harder, it just hurt too much. And today, I was just not willing to go to that degree of suffering. That, and I was concerned of making mistakes that could result in injury. And finally, Nina probably would have just put the afterburners on if I had been able to close the gap.
I have no regrets; just a feeling of peaceful bliss.
|Nina ... such an uber strong and super cool competitor.|
I also want to give a shout out to Melanie Blake Singer, who came in third, on a single speed. I met her earlier this year at the Night Shift 6 Hour Race. She has just recently come back into the racing scene ... on a SS. She is getting stronger with every race. She is an inspiration to all women who might think that they are too "old" to try anything new. I can say this, 'cuz I am old, too ;)!
|Powerful women's podium.|
|Glad it wasn't the 5 Points 65!|
I am happy to report that after detailing my bike, the only parts I will have to replace are my rear brake pads. Despite a cup of water that came spewing out from my seat tube, no harm was done to any bearings. So to all your racer peeps that don't want to race in the rain for fear of destroying your bike, that is just an old wives' tail. The real reason you bail is because you don't want to have to clean mud out of every orifice for the two days following.
|More mud inside than outside. #loadeddiaper|