Both the Red Clay Ramble and Fried Green Tomato 50 events had piqued my interest in the past. The opportunity just never presented itself. So when John Switow posted on FB that he wanted to have a run at the Fried Clay, I decided that this would be a great way to kick off my first BDR (Big Dumb Ride) of the year. This was an OYO (On Your Own) race, meaning you could ride the course anytime during March and upload your start/finish time as well as a GPX file for verification. I watched the weather like a hawk in the week leading up to it because I had heard of the muddy horror stories of both the clay roads and horse trails. Fortunately while my town got a thorough soaking, the conditions in middle Georgia remained dry.
|Love beginning rides before dawn because this is the reward.|
John and I started our ride at 7:15 am, after a 40 minute drive from our hotel and fumbling around a bit in the dark, readying our steeds. I had stuffed about 2500 calories of food in my feed bag and top tube bag: waffles, shot blocks, gels, 3 peanut butter filled dates, and a king-size PayDay. I had 2 bottles full of Skratch and 1 empty bottle I planned on filling with water when there was a larger stretch between water refills. We were doing this "self-sufficient," in order to get the 30 minute time bonus, so essentially we could not resupply at any stores, but churches were fair game for water refills. I also had purification tablets, just in case.
With a 40 degree start, I had chemical warmers in my gloves and shoes. The only saving grace was that the sun was supposed to come out and warm things up around 10 am. The first few miles were chilly, as my core slowly warmed up with the effort. After that, only my fingers were cold, and I slowly began to enjoy the undulations in the roads. I mentioned to John that it felt like a chainless day so far and hope that it would continue.
|Glad I started out in my cold weather HandUp Gloves|
About 10 miles in we stopped in Hillsboro and checked out a very old school house, built in 1915. This was just the beginning of our ride back through time, as the buildings and homes along the route were dated early 1900's. Even though I was racing for the fastest time, I still wanted to take time to enjoy the beauty and history.
|Ben Hill Schoolhouse|
Heading into the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, the rollers got grunty and the gravel got a little thicker. Not enough to be soul-sucking, but made the cornering on the descents a little more exciting. This is also where we began to encounter some creek crossings. Being that it was still chilly, I slowed down and picked my way slowly through them. But still managed to get one of my feet wet and kill that chemical warmer. This was also the first time I encountered gravel roads with real street names and stop signs. Very weird! I suppose this was what it was like in many of the southern states not too long ago, as I remember a lot of my county roads were gravel back when I was in grade school.
|John pushing the Jakroo pocket volume to its limits|
Some controlled burns had recently taken place in the refuge and the ashy odor was still very pungent. A few places were still smoldering. Contrasting this were areas where small rivers flowed over flat rocks that would be great opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
|This church was rebuilt after Sherman's troops burnt it to the ground in retaliation.|
Getting a history lesson eased my mind on what ordeal remained for me. Next up was the lollipop section which was a little flatter and gave me time to digest what I had consumed at the church. John also decided to try to make friends with some chasing dogs rather than doing an interval. While he was sweet talking, I soft-pedaled on. I was now at the point that if I stopped for any length of time, my legs thought they were finished for the day.
|John riding like a boss!|
John kept telling me that you always have 25 more miles in you. Well, I was for sure looking for mile 112 because then, although I would probably be a suffering buckaroo, at least I might be able to catch a whiff of the barn then. We stopped at Ellis Chapel (mile 111), found the well house, but could not find a spigot. I think our brains were both so compromised from fatigue that we didn't even think to open the door and look inside for the spigot (which we were told later that's where it was ... doh!). Fortunately I still had almost a full bottle left.
|11 hours 20 minutes later and I still like this guy!|
|Done and done!|