That's me, in my truck, waiting just a couple more minutes before heading over to the start line. It was pouring rain. The rain would let up and then let loose again, off and on for most of the day. I can't even remember when it was and was not raining, just that it rained a lot....as evidenced by the pint of water that poured out of my frame, when I took the bike to Liberty to assess the damage.
Todd said some stuff, normal race director stuff, counted down, fired the pistol and we rolled out. I was in the front, mainly because when I got to the start line, everybody was huddled under the tent and the line was empty, I was already wet, so that's where I went. I was in the top 15 when we hit the first climb and things started to go south. I was feeling weird, only 20 minutes into the race. Lots of things went through my head, trying to figure out what it was. I realized halfway up Clawhammer, as I fought nauseousness and headache, that I was overheating, in the pouring rain. I had opted to wear a base layer for the day and it along with the humidity was causing me to overheat.
I peeled it off at Buckhorn Gap and picked up the pace going down the trail to the bridge at Squirrel Gap Trail. I was able to pass several people and did not get passed.
Squirrel Gap was brutal, not the smooth dry singletrack that I had trained on all summer, it was the smooth slick as snot single track. I did what I could and kept spinning. Somewhere around Horsecove, I started losing my rear brake. I tried to take it easy, with 30 miles left to go.
Left on Laurel Creek down to Bradley Creek, I started to feel like I was recovering from the first climb. I kept it steady. Bradley Creek was high and the color of thick sweet tea, but not as bad as I thought it would be.
Out of the creek and up Bradley Creek Rd. I like this climb but something felt off. I realized at some point that I should raise my seat up a little bit. It was a bout 3 mm too low and working muscles that are not used to being worked. That's what happens when you replace components a week before a major race. But, the trade off to have an upgrade was worth a little trouble.
A Yellow Gap, the mechanic confirmed that my headset was crunchy and my rear brakes were soon going to be useless. I forged on. Grinding the gravel and passing a handful of people, one dude who said something about a new pedal and the cramped up. Oops.
Mills River was going off and I was surprised not to see any boaters down there, Class 3-4 whitewater was there for the taking.
I road the creek bed of a trail back up to Buckhorn Gap, got a Coke, made a joke, didn't toke, and started the hike. I was looking forward to the hike. No brakes needed. Up and over Black, down to the gap, up the next hike a bike. As I started up, I was joined by Jason Luque, we seem to wind up in this spot at the same time several times during the race, we laughed about it.
Up and over and then the decent. I quit using the back brake because I didn't want to destroy rotor or pistons. I relied heavily on the front brake and was able to ride most of the last down hill, quite a bit slower than normal, but faster than the guys walking down because they had not brakes at all.
Cross the finish line, head to the truck, get changed, go home, eat dinner and the head over to Liberty Bikes for a 1.5 hr clean up session. Thanks to Dave Wood for the expertise and time. My bike would not be the same without you!
Stage 2 tomorrow.