ORAMM 2015 rolled around. I had assembled a crew of awesome folks to run rest stop #2 for me and they gave me the green light to go ride the event, so I trained as much as I could. Summer training is less than optimum, with family schudule, summer ride program, the shop etc. I just tried to get a couple of long rides in and stay consistent. Most of my training was on the road bike, for convenience and hoping to build some endurance.
Sunday morning rolled around and I was a nervous wreck. The drive down, I focused on positive thoughts and tried to control my mind. It kept wandering to past failures and DNF's. This would be my 5th attempt at ORAMM, with 2 finishes and 2 DNF's, I had every right to be nervous. But the nerves weren't helping me eat breakfast!
I chose to drive the 150 gallon water bladder out to Curtis Creek and ride my bike back to the start. This way I would avoid the pre-race chaos/nervousness that fills the air, and get a 3 mile warm up.
I managed to eat enough bagel and roll back to the start. High fives and hugs to my support crew and the squeezed into the pack. Todd counted down and we were off.
Suddenly things go chaotic. It seems that there were some confused roadies out here who thought that we were in the Tour. Sketchy passes, sketchy riding. It all made me really nervous and a little pissed off. I tried to settle into a rythym, but with so many people it was impossible. This was survival mode, waiting until the first couple of climbs to these agro dudes would start sweating and hopefully chill out a little.
Up the first little climb, pass about 40 people, down the little decent before getting to the greenway. My thoughts were interrupted but what sounded like: rubbing tires, bikes and bodies hitting each other, bikes and bodies hitting the pavement and then my bikes was shaking, it felt like someone had landed on my rear wheel and I though I was going down. In that split second, I pedaled to get away while I could hear bike and body bouncing and sliding next to me. Crap that was close.
Up and over Kitsuma, the weather was warm but the descents were cool. This was great, even if it got hot, if I could cool down on the descents, I would survive.
More sketchy riding and passing on the single track, and I was getting more annoyed everytime. I realized that I wasn't into that sort of thing and thoughts of quitting entered my head. The mountain bike racing I remember was filled with good times, people encouraging each other etc. Not folks yelling at others to "GET OUT OF THE WAY".
Through Old Fort Picnic Area and up the pavement to Graphite were the first rest stop is. I ate half of a Pro Bar on the road and then stopped to re-fill a water bottle. I was keeping track of fluid intake and was right on schedule.
Up Star Gap and down Lower Heartbreak onto Jarret's Creek road. Up until this point, my head was filled with self doubt and thoughts of quitting. I tried all the tricks I know to change my attitude but it wasn't happening.
I got in with a group of guys who were having fun though and everything changed. I managed my pace and settled into a rythym, finally. Then I started to enjoy the ride and my thoughts turned positive. I started thinking about finishing and how great that would feel. I started to focus on where I was and what I was doing, blocking out the agro negative around me.
I rolled into rest stop 2 and was greeted by the best crew in the world. Bottles refilled, a little bit of sammy and I was rolling on.
The climb up Curtis Creek went well, it was hot, but just where I could handle it. I did quite a bit of walking, wanting to preserve my legs for the second half of the race. It really would have helped if I could have trained a bit more but, I felt I had what it would take to finish.
I finally ground my way over the top and sprinted past about 5 people. I didn't want to get stuck behind them at the rest stop.
Rest Stop 3, run by Pisgah MTB Adventures, Patrick, Chris, Shannon and friends all there eager to help. In and out, and on the road again.
The grind south on the parkway was a lot of climbing with one good decent, almost enough to recover but not quite enough to feel good. Then I got to the hike a bike and Heartbreak Ridge. I took assessment of how I felt. Good. I was hungry, for some solid food, like a hot dog or some pizza, but there was none of that around. I settled for another gel. Then I started the decent.
The rough part about descending on an empty stomach is that there is room for the internals to bounce around and it kind of hurts. It is definitely uncomfortable and forces me to go a little slower.
Down the single track, hiking up, down some more, hike some tight turns, cross the creek, cross the tracks and bust out onto the pavement to a cheering crowd. It is so nice to see so many people out there cheering on the racers.
A quick stop at Rest Stop 4 and I was climbing Mill Creek Rd. I felt great and upped the pace a little bit. I made it to the top fairly quickly and then up to Kitsuma. Somewhere at the top of Mill Creek, I called the wife to let her know I would be finishing in about an hour.
I was able to manage Kitsuma and then out onto the last 3 miles of pavement. Mc Dowell County EMS had their mobile command unit set up in the parking lot. Quite different from 6-7 years ago when I dropped out of the race here, begged for a ride to the finish, then was loaded into an ambulance to got to the hospital.
I waved, thanked the folks and headed to the finish. One last bit of single track where I was able to pass 2 more geared riders then across the finish line.
My time was 7hrs 1 min 20 seconds and I was happy. 8 yrs after my first attempt with a finish time around 7:30, I finally beat my own PR.
It turned out that I had a lot of fun and I definitely want to do this again, but I think I might go on a two year rotation, doing the race every other year! It takes about that long to recover from this one!!