I couldn't take it. I couldn't stand to have another DNF by my name and do nothing about it. The day after ORAMM this year, I formulated a plan. I decided that I was going to do the route again, in August, to prove to myself that I could still complete this course. I had the hunger and the drive to finish it, which is good because it turned out to be a huge mental game.
I dropped Jubal off for his first day of school and headed out to Old Fort. The sky was overcast and the air was muggy. I got changed and headed out at 8:24am. I wanted to start as close to the official start time as I could. But things happen, so here I was, rolling out. It was odd, going through all the motions with 399 less people riding with me.
As I headed up the greenway, I was excited and feeling good. Back and forth up the switchbacks, assuming a mellow, finishing pace, I was already drenched in sweat. To compensate for not having aid stations to refill at, I had brought along my 70oz waterpack. It was heavier and hotter. It also turned out that it was throwing me off balance on the downhills. I felt like what little techy skill I had was gone. Frustrated and somewhat demoralized after 3 near major crashes, I popped out into the Old Fort picnic area.
Out onto the pavement towards Graphite, I refueled with a chocolate Honey Stinger bar. It was going to be a long day, but I tried not to think about that. I thought about other stuff, lots of other stuff. The why's and what's of life. Grinding away at the pedals and grinding away at the thoughts.
Through Graphite and up onto Lower Heartbreak. Riding the things I have walked and walking when I had to, I pushed on. My body felt good but my mind was fighting me. I stopped before heading down Star Gap, which is a really fun hidden gem of flowing singletrack and well built switchbacks. I let a little air out of the front tire, hoping to compensate for my lack of skill. It seemed that it wasn't working, then I realized at the bottom that my fork was locked out.
Jarret's Creek rd went by without any issues. Taking care around the long slippery corners, that puddles were full and frogs were swimming around in them.
I stopped at Curtis Creek and sat down to have a sandwich, and text Rhonda to let her know my status: "Rest Stop 2, feeling good". I kind of lied, because I didn't feel that good. I was hot and drenched in sweat and feeling that fatigue from effort in the heat. I had been riding for 3.5 hrs.
Taking a left onto Curtis Creek rd, I used up the last of my water. 110oz of fluids in 3.5 was just enough to get by. I usually drink 24 oz of my secret performance drink containing NUUN, but due to not having access to water stations, I was going to have to go with about 1 bottle less. This would begin to affect my calorie intake later.
When I got to the spring, I stopped and filled up, splashing some of the cool, clear water on my face and arms. Even here, in the shade, deep in the valley, the air was thick with humidity. The sun came out just as I started to climb again.
As usual, the CC climb went on and on. I focused on staying smooth and spinning an easy gear. 4-5 mph to the top, across the parkway and down the other side. It was not very cool at the top. Cruising past Black Mountain Campground, I started to have doubts about finishing. The mental game kicked up a notch and I had to be very careful not to give in. I made a goal of getting to the second bridge, where I eventually sat down for a little bit longer break. I ate the other half of my sandwich and drank fluids.
The last mile or so up to the parkway is long. I could hear cars passing on the parkway, but the road meanders below before finally joining it. I stopped again where the PAS rest stop used to be. I longed for a Coke, like the one that Gordy had handed me last time. Gordy, who volunteered his time with a broken colar bone. We had made an agreement. I would finish ORAMM, and he would follow Dr's orders to stay off the bike until he was OK'd. I was determined to keep my end of the bargain.
As I headed south on the pkwy, the nauseousness started to creep in. Just like last time, same place, same feeling. For some reason, I pulled the Fritos Corn Chips out of my pack and nibbled on them. I forced myself to chew them and washed them down with water. Amazingly, after about 15 minutes, I started to feel better.
At the top of Heartbreak, I pulled the phone out to call Rhonda. She was on here way to pick the kid up from school. I asked her to bring my smaller camelbak for the second round of Kitsuma.
The ride down Kitsuma was not great. I was hot and not cooling off, but the corn chips had done something and I was invigorated, I cruised down the mountain, determined that I was going to finish. I pulled into Graphite right and the wife and kid did, made the switch and hit the road again. Climbing like a snail up Mill Creek, it went by way faster after having climbed Curtis Creek Rd.
I walked most of the uphills on the Kitsuma trail. It was hot and I was overheated. Interestingly, the nauseousness came back, but after munching on some more Fritos, I felt better. I'm going to add Fritos to my race diet. I'm not sure if it is the calories, sodium or both, but they worked.
I finally got to the last downhill bit, taking it easy because everything was slimy. I popped out into Old Fort Picnic Area, surprising a 60 plus yr old couple that should have gotten a room, and out onto old Hwy 70.
The 3 mile grind back to town was a victory for me. It has been a long time since I have ridden this stretch of road. Too long. It felt great riding back into town. I was there, all alone. No banner, no music, no beer. Just me, my wife and kid...and the lady at the museum. And I was ok with that. This is why I ride. Not to be recognized by the world, not to see where I placed, or who I beat. I ride to finish.
And that is what I did. 8hrs 25 minutes: 64 miles!! Done!
Have a great day.