Monday, July 28, 2014
The day started out with the high forecast to be around 95 in Old Fort. I had managed a rest stop the previous day at the Jerdon Mtn Challenge, and was organizing rest stop 2 today. I had recruited an awesome group of folks to cover for me and I was excited to line up with 499 other racers.
After dropping the trailer with the 150 gallon water bladder off at rest stop 2, I rode the 3.5 miles back to the start line and waited for the start. After Todd finished with the "race talk" and rules, the gun went off, and we rolled out.
I was in the front and thanks to a couple of pushes from Jason Luque, I was able to hang in until the first climb. My goal today was to finish, if I could finish fast, that would be icing on the cake. The group rolled the pavement and headed up the Point Lookout Trail. I got into my rhythm, chatting with old friends about our personal goals.
Surprisingly, when I got to Kitsuma the trail was not clogged, and most people were riding. Those who bobbled and dabbed were kind enough to jump out of the way of people still riding. I was able to ride the entire way.
Thanks to the Luque Crew from FLA USA for the heckle section about halfway up. They were making a ruckus in the woods that I have not heard since several years ago at the stage race. If you don't race, you should heckle....period.
I ate some chews and made sure I was drinking enough. I had started a little on the hungry side, but knew that once my nerves calmed, I would be able to eat a sandwich and get the system on track.
Snaking up and down on Kitsuma, some loud dude got behind me, yelling for people to get out of the way. Thinking he was joking, I joined in for a few minutes. When I realized he was serious, I told him he should chill out and enjoy the ride. He squeezed by me and the guy in front of me, only to get stuck behind the line of 20 in front of us. If you know Kitsuma, you know towards the end there is an alternate little trail that drops on the right and then shoots back up into the trail. I hit that right and dropped in, I let go of the brakes and shot back up the other side giving me the speed to pass the 2 people in front of me, including loud dude. But, I didn't. I checked up and resumed my place in line. It was a fun move though.
I had been watching my pace and while a hair higher than desired, I wasn't red lining, and there had been plenty of places to let my heartrate drop. It was a little disconcerting to have the old nauseous feeling returning. It wasn't that hot out yet, and I was sweating still. Weird.
I stopped at Rest Stop 1 to refill my bottles and headed out again. Climbing Star Gap, I did a lot of walking. I was feeling worse as time went by and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I figured I would keep pedaling, drinking and eating, hoping that my body would calm down. Maybe it was nerves, or stress, or lack of sleep from stress. Or maybe my body was worn out from a busy summer.
I rolled into rest stop 2 and ate a sammy and some chips, and sipped some Coke. Felt worse. I went and sat in the creek, no different. If it were heat related, the creek would have made some sort of difference. I visited the porta jon and felt slightly better. I laid in the truck bed. I got up and walked around, frustrated and still nauseous. Walking around made me feel slightly better. I laid down again. I finally went and sat in the mini van with the air conditioner on high. It made me shiver, but still didn't feel great.
Finally, after about 20 minutes of air conditioning, I felt a twinge of hunger pain. It felt good, after about 5 more minutes, the nauseousness subsided. Then it dawned on me. I had switched to a different gel and energy chew brand for this race. It was a brand I had used in the past, I thought it had worked then, but I also got sick a lot in the past. Dang it. That's what it was. Something in the nutrient was making me sick. I got out of the van and got suited up. Ate a little bit and felt decent.
After a 2 hr layover, I was rolling again. Still not sure if I could finish this beast and 2 hrs behind on calories, I was determined to keep trying. I thanked my team and bid them farewell. Rolling up Curtis Creek, I was greeted by the USFS Ranger, he asked what I was doing so far back. I told him what was up, and he told me all he was hearing was excuses. Haha, funny.
I can't remember how long it took, but I made it to the top. I text Rhonda to let her know that I was going to keep going. I filled my bottles, and headed out. I had managed to scrounge enough hammer and gu gels at rest stop 2 to help me get to rest stop 4. I had been using these during training and they had work fine.
The Parkway was sunny and stuffy. To the west, there was high misty cloud cover, to the east, blue sky and sun. It was pretty warm. Up the major climb, a quick pit stop in the woods. My body was still flushing the culprit. Back on the bike, barely looking around, wondering if I should turn around. Drinking, eating a gel. Onward.
Before bombing down the hill at close to 40 mph, I doused myself with water to cool down. Halfway down, I was shivering. It felt great, then I started the last paved climb and warmed up quickly. 3 ish miles and I was glad to see Heartbreak Ridge. Slow climb up the hike a bike section. The enduro people were there along with group from the Mc Dowell County EMS. As a side note, they were all over the race course, doing their job, it was great to see them out, supporting this race.
I was not worried about the Enduro, so I hiked down the first techy bit before riding. I got on the bike and cruised. It felt faster than I normally ride it, so I just relaxed and rolled. I started feeling better. I did not take the time to enjoy the views. I just focused on forward movement, efficient pedal stroke and relaxing.
Oddly enough, as I made my way down the windy trail, I started feeling better. I continued drinking Nuun and sports drink. I let go of the brakes a little and enjoyed the decent. I could hear a train down in the valley below, I hoped that I wouldn't get caught.
Sure enough, as I neared the end of the Enduro section, the train roared past. 2 minute delay and a quick chat with the Hoyts, and I was off again.
A brief stop at rest stop 4, refilled the bottles, grabbed a handful of chips, bummed a hammer gel and I was off again.
The climb up Mill Creek Rd was a bit easier than I expected, I put my body on auto pilot and allowed my thoughts to drift towards how it would feel to finish this beast. I could hardly believe that I was still moving forward, that I felt decent considering the circumstances. Up the gravel road and onto the pavement, one last gel before the climb up Kitsuma. Anything that threatened to raise my heart rate and core temp, I walked. I was not worried about finishing fast, just focused on finishing.
I was able to let off the brakes a little on the downhills and have some fun enjoying the trail. It would probably be a while before I got back out this way, so I wanted to enjoy it, and I did. The last little bit of singletrack opened up into the Old Fort Picnic Area. I pedaled past the Mobile Command Post, waved and said "Thanks".
3 miles of pavement to go, I started picking people off. 1 by 1, I was able to reel in and pass about 4 or 5 people. That felt good.
Then the finish and the hands in the air, victory was mine: I conquered the beast.
Posted by Stephen at 4:15 PM