Saturday morning, I toed the line for this epic event. Mike Keeley and a lot of other friends had done it last year, and I was curious to see what it was all about. I was familiar with the route and was excited to spend a day in the woods with a bunch of friends.
I camped out Friday night, and I'm not sure why this always happens to me, but I was rudely awakened several times by "the loud talker". Hint: if it is dark, and past 9pm, and you are in a designated camping area, then there are probably people trying to sleep. If you have the need to talk loudly, late into the night, I recommend pulling out a map, and finding a spot where no one else is, go there and talk to your heart's content.... Finally at 11:30pm I had lost my patience and told the dude to "Quiet down, people are trying to sleep". I might start yelling at people more often, because the result was silence, and a good night's sleep.
Saturday rolled around, and thanks to Sycamore Cycle's 7:30am opening, I got a new batterty and sensor magnet just in time for the start. We rolled out. Dave Wood had dared me to go hard at the front to string everyone out. I wanted to, but could not get to the front. Next time.
Up to the Liberty Bikes aid station, Mark and Norman took care of what I needed and I was off. Steady pace. While the temps were not to hot, the humidity was high so I tried to maintain a decent pace while not overheating. I already had some twinges of cramps for some reason. Pedaling up Wash Creek Road, Carey Lowery passed me, she had punctured a sidewall and was smoothly cranking out the miles. She was not going that much faster than me, but fast enough to pull away and disappear by the top of the climb.
Up to the gap and south on the parkway, I yo yoed with several people, and then bridged up to a group. The pace was just a little faster than I was able to maintain so I backed off and went my own pace. At some point, I realized that I had not spent any time training for long, hour plus climbs. Oops.
On up to the Bike Street rest stop. Quick refill, a little mouth wash cup of Coke and back on the road. As I listened to the chatter, everyone was interestingly in the same boat: high humidity, can't go hard, lacking power, cramping. Good to know I was fitting in and normal. The next section of parkway passed by one pedal stroke at a time. A beautiful section with huge views that I don't remember seeing. I can't remember if it was too cloudy, or I was in the pain cave. Then Megan Archer and Mary Shell Zafino caught me. I tried to hang on but couldn't. Dang it, I couldn't let Megan beat me....
I kept the two ladies in sight all the way down 215 and then up the gravel Indian something or other road. Then I lost them. Making the last climb up to Gloucester Gap I was excited. One last down hill, then pavement to the finish. At the top, the skies grew dark and let loose. Monsoon rains, puddles and rivers running across the road. I rolled down, it was sketchy for reelz.
A guy on fat tires caught me and we started throwing the proverbial "let's see what you got left" punches. Then we caught Megan and Mary Shell again. We all rode together for about a mile and the guy gunned it. I jumped to his wheel. We traded pulls. Each time he pulled he upped the pace. Each time I pulled, I slowed, and shook my head. About 1 mile from the horse stables, he pushed hard, I held his wheel. He pulled over and I took the front, slowing slightly. At the horse stables, I pulled over and got behind him, he pulled up the little grunt climb. Just before the top, I hit the gas and dropped the dude. A couple of glances back and he was close enough that I kept the heat on til the end.
I hopped, sort of, over the finishing barriers and crossed the finish line. Time: 5:19. Not a bad day!