Part 1 - Syllamo wins, I was totally broken for a few weeks after the race. I had never done anything like it and it took me forever to recover. Total time 7:47
Part 2 - Syllamo fought harder than me and still won. I ended up broken during the race and for about a week afterwards. Took 6:57 that year.
Part 3 - epicness ensued. I almost didn't get in to the race. I forgot about registration and Ryan and Andrea came to the rescue like usual. They have a sneaky way of finding stuff that I want that forces me into servitude of house sitting, cleaning gutters, washing bikes, all the normal stuff that guys my age are always ready to do for grilled chicken and PBR.
I knew from the beginning that I was going to do the 50 mile race. I had unfinished business with that race. I had a score to settle. I felt that I needed to go back and show that path over some hills who is boss. I stayed on the bike more than usual this winter but in my mind not nearly enough.
Real race rundown:
Friday I woke up at 4:00am in order to get my stuff packed, my apartment clean, and get to Ryan's house in order to get going to Arkansas. We make it through the flood zones of endless mosquito heaven without getting any diseases or having any trouble. Once there we poked around, messed with bikes, walked some dogs, and loaded up to go do a shake out ride. I had done some stupid tire choice in the week leading up to the race but it was all going to work out. My front tire choice #1 was misplaced somewhere in my 1000 square foot apartment? My rear tire idea of using something minimal in order to prevent mud clog kinda backfired.... (Nevegals and huge Conti MTN Kings are dumb. They are just super heavy slicks because they load with mud) The WTB Vulpine with side knobs and a center tread of file knobs was sorta dumb to bring. . . but I didn't want to buy any tires because I really didn't want anything in particular. Whatever. It was going to be a long day anyways. We went and cleaned up, got our race packets, and went to dinner. We tried to deliver some tires to Amanda Carey but it didn't work out. Went back to the cabin with my head feeling crazy and my stomach garbage. It was about the time I would normally be getting off work so I got Marley and went out for a long walk with him to try and clear my head. I told myself I had everything I needed to hit my target time, just needed to keep it cool and make it happen. Before bed everything was prepped, I stayed sober, and sleep came easy because I had been up since 4am.
Race morning was actually calm. I just woke up, coffee was already made, made breakfast. Ryan and I made it to the race in time to see Andrea start, which was pretty cool. I changed and got on my bike to start warming up. I think some guy thought I was retarded as I turned up the fire road climb on my SS, seated, with a Red Bull in one hand. I climbed about 50 yards up the road in order to remind myself of what it was going to be like and then turned back down towards the start. The pre race meeting was long, I never got fully warmed up and it cooled me down. I rolled to the start and some old guy with white hair looked at me on my SS, with Zebra print glasses, and started muttering. The firey 23 year old lashed out: "YEAH BUD, I am a huge idiot. Riding all these hills and slick rocks sucks on SS. In my 100 or so miles of preride it sucked but I figured I'd waste my time and race it anyways." The old guy gave a very uncomfortable chuckle and kept his dentures closed for the rest of the time we sat at the start. Once the race started it was awesome. I knew I wasn't warmed up so I hopped on a wheel on the pavement and just held on. A lot of the people who big ringed the pavement were going to be little ringing the climb. They would be going backwards as the climb hit the 2nd half. My plan worked. I sat on some guys wheel and just stared at his hub. His pink Chris King Hub. If I hadn't been dying I would have known it was a Memphis guy, Paul Hart. I pulled up beside him at some point and said "you are going a great pace, thanks for the wheel" and we realize we know each other. I watched a guy get off his bike, pick up his rear tire and pedal the bike so it would go to granny gear then get back on. I decided it was time to copy the Grizzlies and "Grit Grind SS." By the top of the climb I had gotten warmed up and was sitting on the back of the front group. I mean that as in the lump of people who had their act together and weren't racing to finish. Some guy flatted and split me off the group a bit. I caught back up with Paul and realized I was flatting too. Damn. Really? Shit. I passed one guy who was changing a flat and pulled over up the trail far enough to be out of talking distance and hit my tubeless with CO2. I heard it leaking. I let gravity and Stan's do what it could. I heard it seal the hole. Awesome. More CO2. I limp/hammer to the aid station 1
At aid station 1 I get my tire aired up with a floor pump to 30 psi. I pounded some PBJ and went out to destroy the green trail. Things were fun and awesome. When I came back by the aid to hit the orange people were cheering and it was good. I got pumped. Then things got dark. Really dark. The trail is relentless and my hand/wrist that I had sprained 8 days prior started to hurt. I was holding the bar crooked so I was twisting my back crooked. Back pain came at mile "Way too early". Then the dark thoughts came. The modified Grizz saying popped back in my head. Grit Grind SS. Blah no thats dumb. It takes hear to ride a SS, so I could Grit Grind Heart. But no. This race is an unforgiving and uncaring, heartless skank bag. I could quit, finish in 15 hours, whatever. It wouldn't care. It would still be sitting there. A stupid little hill with a path on it with a few pieces of gravel in there. I started giving myself post race crap talking I would hear if I didn't do well. Things like "I thought you rode more to get ready this year" or "I guess SS wasn't any faster huh bud?" or "Why bother trying to do a serious race when you won't bother to seriously train"
Huh, during this time my pace picked up, the sand fell out of my man-gina, and it was time to do work. I hit Aid #2 and began destroying myself. Andrea had told me to attack at Aid #2 and kill myself. I popped in and out with a number call out and PBJ stealing. I saw some people on geared bikes heading up the two track that leads to the real climbing. I put my head down, chewed my sandwich, and caught them. I passed them on the climb by not getting off the second time they wanted to hike a bike. I told myself it was my time to shine, drop those guys, and ride my own race. I did. It worked. A 19 year old and I rode together for a while but he was fitter than I and too chatty. I let him drop me so I could go back to doing my own thing.
Aid #3 had a customer standing in the parking lot, so I never unstraddled my bike. I just called out my number, 3 times, gradded a sandwich, told the volunteers they were awesome, and went out to kill the red trail and myself at the same time. I rode with the womens winner for a little while. No one was really passing me or anything on the red trail this year. Not huge packs of people passing me while I death marched. A guy caught me from behind and told me he was on pace to hit 5:45. I decided I would die trying to drop him in order to beat his pace. It worked. I crossed the line with a finish time of 5:37.
I feel like I am becoming a real biker finally, having enough fitness to put my body into the pain cave. Over the next few months I plan to really focus on getting ready for ORAMM 2011. Hopefully I will do well again this year, as the course seemed to suit me well.