|Hill of Truth -- The infamous powerline climb|
I had signed up to race this solo. This race had been my very first 12 hour race back in 2005. Now in its 19th year, I was eager to get back. The trail system at Haw Ridge is a spider web of amazing technical trails. Each year the course is different. I would go out and race until it wasn't fun any longer, pull the plug, and then hang out with friends. Two days before I got a FB message from Missy, inviting me to join her and Elizabeth on their team, the YeeHaw Hawties. It didn't didn't take much persuasion to hop aboard their train.
Three womens' teams signed up and this year was a record turn out with 150+ racers. I suppose the warm and dry weather had something to do with it, but other factors included Jon and Kent's hard work ethic and the explosive growth of mountain biking in the Knoxville area.
The Hawties shared tent space with the Nox Composites team of Kaysee "the crusher", Cory "the conqueror", Wes "the SS slayer", and Brad "the equalizer." I asked to do the first lap and didn't get any resistance. Just a month or so ago, Zeke and I racked our brains trying to remember which race started with a cannon. Question answered as I became tone deaf in my right ear!
|East Shore Trail|
The course was faassst! Even though there was some tight and twisty along the shoreline, the Lake, Middle, and Powerline were straight up highways where you could pick up some massive speed. The Hill of Truth came and went pretty quickly, as I was fresh. This is a nasty, 1/4 mile rock strewn and loose double track climb that got steeper at the top. Then to throw salt in the wound, a hard left was followed by more climbing, which wasn't all that steep, but when you are gassed ...
New this year was a downhill option off of the Ridge Trail. I could either take Low Gap, an old school fall line trail straight down or Washing Machine, a new flow trail with berms and jumps. I am pretty sure everyone took Low Gap, as it was at least 2 1/2 minutes faster. And for me, funner anyways.
Hitting Mike's Trail, I knew my lap was about over. This is where I tried to kick it and finish hard. I came rolling through, first woman through, and handed off the "baton," a small piece of laminated paper with a bar code, to Elizabeth.
|Elizabeth finishing up her first lap.|
I rolled over to our pits, shed some gear, ate some food, and sat and enjoyed my friends' company. Elizabeth finished her blazing fast lap and sent Missy out on her gravity bike. Talk about bringing a gun to a knife fight! Have fun pedaling that up HOT, I thought. But she still turned an amazing time!
Going out for my second lap, the legs barked all the way down the greenway. Fortunately, by the time I hit the top of Soccer, they were game ready again. Having no traffic in front of me, this lap felt faster than the first ... but it wasn't ... meh. I definitely used less brake on Low Gap, as I G'd out on one of the dips at the bottom. That trail was definitely the highlight of each lap.
After my second lap, I learned about the little set back with Kaysee's Nox Composite team. Appeared as if Brad took a little detour and went off course. Either that or he wanted to even the playing field by buying the team a 7.5 minute penalty. I hated it for them, but if anyone could make up that time, they could. Anyways, it was fun listening to them strategize for the remaining laps.
On my third lap, I had one goal ... not let Kaysee catch me. I was hoping Missy would come in quickly, because I figured I needed at least a 4 minute buffer for me to succeed. Oh, how I miss the days of yore when I was on top of my game and Kaysee was just getting into mountain bike racing. Now, it is all I can do to stay within walkie-talkie distance of this shredder-slayer-crusher phenom! Kaysee is most worthy of the "passing of the torch."
|I don't know what hurt worse, the climbs or the flats.|
So instead of just some steady spinning, I had to race like a scalded dawg! I thought my legs were never going to come around this time. All those little punchy climbs grew. The flat sections were also leg burners as I had to focus on turning those pedals over, TT style. The Hill of Truth was baking in the sun by now and I felt the heat emanate off the rocks and dirt. I was glad to be able to dive back into the woods. But then the sun was casting rays of light directly into my eyeballs making it difficult to see the trail. I finally popped out back on the greenway, looking over my shoulder, just in case Kaysee was creeping up on me. With no one in sight, I was able to spin it on in. Goal accomplished.
Our team by now had a substantial lead so I figured I only had 1 more lap to do. So in between drinking, eating, and conversing, I prepared for a night lap. With the sun starting to go down, there was a chill in the air. I didn't add any layers, as I knew I would quickly warm back up, once out on course. I started my final lap at dusk. As I made my way around the course, darkness fell upon me. I enjoyed this lap, more mentally/spiritually than physically. My body ached, but my mind was clear. Body memory from the previous 3 allowed me to negotiate the trail. Of course there were a few tricky areas where depth perception made it difficult to judge where the trees were and I banged off a couple of them. But other than that and a few big scary roots, it was almost surreal. I really ought to night ride more, as I genuinely enjoy this kind of ride. It is just hard for me to get out there when my circadian rhythm has me yawning at 7pm and ready for bed at 9pm.
As I pulled into the transition area, my team mates were no where to be found. No worries, I told myself, as I pedaled back to my pit area. I handed off the bar code to Missy, who was going out for her last (and our team's last) lap. Elizabeth managed to finagle her way out of a night lap, that little rascal!
While cleaning up, I learned that Kaysee's team was back in first place in the Open category, making up that 7 1/2 minute deficit in three or four laps. Day-em!
Kevin, one of my hometown buds, showed up at my truck. He had completed 6 laps and was debating a 7th. But he was also having some achy knee issues. I talked him out of it, as we struck up a conversation reliving the good ole days, when we were both in our prime. We must have talked 15 minutes. That was one of my highlights of the race. Had I raced solo, we never would have had that great conversation.
I managed to get in a great work out as well as reconnecting with friends! And Team Yeehaw Hawties won! Doesn't get much better than that. So thank you Missy and Elizabeth for the invite. And thanks to Jon and Kent for another awesome HOT. Thanks to the great group of screaming fanatics at the bottom of Low Gap and the Harper's crew at 5 points.
I hope I can go back in 2018 for the 20th running of the 12 Hours of the Hill of Truth!