I took Friday off, so we could take our time loading up and heading out. We were out of town by 10:30am. Things were going smoothly and Jubal took a nap in the car. It was sunny and cool. We made good time to Murphy NC, where our hotel was waiting. We pulled into the Days Inn, one of the cleanest, friendliest hotels we have stayed in. I checked in, but we didn't unload, as Jubal was still sleeping. If you have kids, you know that a well rested child is a happy child. That goes for well rested spouses too.
We headed on down to the Whitewater Center at the Ocoee river. We parked, picked up the packet and waited for the Trek/VW team to show up. We were waiting, because Chris Etaugh, six time 24 hr solo mountain bike World Champion. He promised to meet me at registration, to sign 20 copies of 24Solo that I had to buy in order to gain the movie rights for a one time showing. So, I did not mind waiting for him. We spent time talking to friends, Jubal threw rocks in the water, I wandered around.
Chris showed up. I could see them from a distance. I waited a couple of minutes before approaching him. I didn't want to pressure him or cause any stress. He was coming to defend his race title, which would in turn set him up to defend the NUE series title. I walked up and introduced myself. I told him I didn't want to pressure him, but asked him when he wanted to autograph the dvd's. He asked me to give him 10 minutes. I told him to take his time, I would hang out with my family and wait near my car. Cool enough.
While we were waiting, I looked up and saw this cat ride by. Floyd Landis. He was the 2006 Tour de France winner. I'm not sure if he still is or not, he got accused of doping. I think they are still waiting to hear the verdict. So, innocent until proven guilty, I'm sticking to that. Anyway, I have a hat that I picked up at the '05 Tour de Georgia. My friend Mike, his brother Scott and I had ridden our bikes around. We ended up finding some swag. I found a Phonak hat. It could have been Landis'. So he rides by my car in the parking lot, riding with two other dudes. I think one is his dad, not sure who the other one is. I yell," Floyd, Floyd, Floyd", he doesn't stop, I yell some more, grab my hat and start running. He lifts a hand in the air, but does not stop. I hate being ignored. I guess he thought there were throngs of people waiting to mob him. I look around. There are maybe ten people who saw the scene. I say, " He didn't stop", feeling rejected, I get a little angry. "Way to work the crowd, Landis" I think to myself.
We continue to wait for Chris Etough. A little while later, Floyd comes back by. I see him coming and walk back to my car where my Phonak hat is. I turn and look him in the eye. I say in a bland voice, " You have time to sign a hat?". He tells me to come down to his car, he has to get out of here. So, I grab my hat and run down to his car. His entourage standing around, he signs my hat, I tell him to " Have a good race". I also tell him that the hat is from the 2005 Tour de Georgia. He said," That was a good one".
I am walking just in front of him at this point. I got his autograph.
A few minutes later, Chris comes over. I am thinking that he is busy, focused, and he doesn't want to be here. If this is true, I am totally fooled. Chris sits down in the shade, chats with my 4 yr old boy and my wife, and take his time signing the dvd's. We chat about his experience in Africa, he gives me some tips for advertising for the 24 Solo viewing on the 29th of May. We talk about his wife and kid. I'm nervous that he wants to get going, that he has better things to do. But by the time he leaves, I feel like he would rather stay and chat in the shade, than go ride his bike. Thanks Chris.
By the way, if you want an autographed copy of 24 Solo, let me know. For a minimum of a $50 donation to World Bicycle Relief, you can have one. Just contact me. While supplies last.
That evening, at the hotel, I decide to check my bike one more time. I tighten bolts, check the brakes, then go to work on get the right chain tension. On of the axle bolts is still not tightening up. I just paid $41 to get the axle replace, because I thought it was getting stripped out. Weird. A flash of panic courses through my body. I gently back the bolt out and realized that the head on the bolt is about to twist off. There is no way that it will tighten down enough to get me through this race. I drive to ACE. They are closed. I find a Lowes, they don't have metric threads. I find Advance Auto Parts. The have a bolt with the correct threads, but it has a different head. I think it will work. I drive back to the hotel. The bolt tightens down, I am hoping it will hold because it does not match up with the special washer.
Wake up at 5 am to rain. Get loaded up, eat a bagel and drink some coffee on the 30 minute drive to the start. I opt not to warm up on the rollers. Instead I take my time getting ready, and head to the start. I ask around for an axle bolt. I finally ask one dude. He has one. He says his name is Wes. I need to find out who he was. I'll have to do some research. I switch it out, and give him the bolt from Advance. I tell him to keep it as a souvenir.
The Start: We all feel kind of like this:
I find a spot about 40 people back in the group of 250 racers. They say go. The girl in front of me bobbles, she can't get clipped in. She wastes 30 seconds, I can't get around, I find my self 30 seconds off of the lead group. Instead I fall in behind two other guys. Up the first 3 miles of pavement, I realise the importance of warming up. Even if it is only for 15 minutes. That first shock to the muscles is better felt on the rollers.
Into the single track I am feeling good, feeling confident. The miles tick by, it has been sprinkling on and off, now it starts to rain. It lets up. We hit the Old Copper Rd. I take my time, and get something to eat. I get to the bridge at the WWC where my family cheers me on.
Then off into the wilderness. I pass the first rest stop at 20 miles. The second stop comes and I'm still feeling good. I take some time to eat and fill up on water. By mile 40, I realise that I should have already been drinking my energy shake. That's all right, I slow down and eat some energy bar.
The problem now is that I am burning so many calories, so quickly, that my body cannot digest solids fast enough to replenish what it needs.
By mile 65, I am starting to feel the oncoming nausea. Same as last year, only a little later in the race. Some improvement. Every time I push it just a little bit, I get nauseated. I start to look for a way out. But, at this point the only way out is to wait for the SAG stop to close up after the last rider goes past and ride with them. That could be a very long time. I continue to ride. My energy shake that I had at mile 50 is long gone. I should have brought more. I know this is the only thing that will help me. I am drinking plenty. At mile 75 I pass a guy on a bike with a trailer. I hear him ask the guys in front of me if they need anything as he has supplies. It turns out that he is the sweep for the 65 mile race. He has some energy shake. I take it from him and thank him. This helps immediately. I recover enough to keep moving. Rest stop #5 I stop, sit down, and drink a bottle of water with some NUUN tablets. I eat half a power bar. I think it is about 10 minutes, but it was probably more like 30 minutes later, I start to feel better. I scrounge another half serving of energy drink from another racer.
I continue riding, keeping the effort low. Even riding downhill, if my heart rate goes up, the nauseousness sets in. I finally get to the 12 miles to go mark. I get my chain lubed at the rest stop. The lady is very cheerful. I count down the miles. That is a very bad thing to do at this point. It takes forever. 8 miles to go. I pass the spot where I laid for 2.5 hrs last year. I stop for a moment of silence, well really to pee, but I do look around and remember. Not this year though.
On and on, this trail last for a very long time. Winding, twisting, climbing, dropping, crossing streams. I walk the short steep pitches that are totally ride able under normal circumstances. I finally get to 3 miles to go. My gut tells me that it is all downhill to the 1 mile of pavement. I gently nurse myself down the mountain. Ahh, there is a truck, and a dirt rd, and a guy saying something. He points, I turn and go. Another person. They say something, and point. I go. Another person, I don't know if he said anything, but he points, I go. 1 mile left. I am going to finish. I gently cruise, I'm not going to push it. If I do, I won't finish. I get pointed on to the bridge, there is my family on the other side. I cross the finish. Done. I am done, it is done.
On my right is Barbara Borders, the race director. She is a great lady!!
I'm not sure what I am doing, but it looks like I am smiling.