I knew that a 12 hour solo race would be challenging, but not like this.
Friday morning, Ryan and I headed out to Cotton Mill Preserve in Fayetteville, TN. Once we arrived, we set up camp and I set out to ride a lap of the course. It was challenging- local people, think of the Lakeland trails, but 10 miles instead of 3. There were still some muddy spots, but I had switched to some IRD Fire tires that were pretty knobby, so they handled it better than I did for the most part.
I thought that I’d gotten lucky when I woke up Saturday morning and the rain had held off. Unfortunately, when we checked the radar, we saw that it would arrive about the same time as the LeMans-style (shotgun!) race start:
For about the first 7-8 miles, I felt really good in spite of the downpour. The Niner was rocking the bejezus out of everything I had the stones to go for.
Somewhere along the way, the rain stopped.
In the space of about 2 minutes, the seemingly unthinkable happened. The mud dried out just enough that it magnetized itself to any surface that it came into contact with. I ended up pushing/riding my bike for a few miles until I passed back through the start/finish area and made it to the bike wash before heading back to the tent for a camelbak swap and a snack. At that point, I figured that the course would soon dry enough that the mud would quit sticking.
I was very, very wrong. After riding the first mile of course (through the fields), I entered the singletrack through the woods. The mud came back with a vengance. I was forced to ride/push again. Pretty soon, this degraded to just pushing. Even in flatter spots and downhills, when I tried to pedal, the mud in my drivetrain would cause vicious chainsuck. Soon, even pushing became nearly impossible because the mud and plant matter jammed into every nook and cranny in my bike. I tried to clean handfuls of mud out, but within 10 feet (no exaggeration), the mud would clog everything and my wheels would not turn- I’d try to slide it along like a sled, but my feet slipped and I became more exhausted. I tried to carry my bike, but even after trying to clear as much mud as possible, the bike was still heavy and awkward. After about 7 miles, I was exhausted and took a bail-out road back to the pits.
Someone later told me that a full-on mud covered bike like this weighed in excess of 100 pounds. I wholly believe him, because I’m pretty strong, and I could not lift my bike off of the ground at this point.
I wasn’t going down without a fight. Ryan took the bottle cages off of his road bike, and I changed in to some clean socks and trail running shoes. We swapped my number onto the bars and I went off to get back to the trail where I’d left off.
While hiking in that mud with a bike on your shoulder isn’t easy, it was almost enjoyable compared to the alternative. As I rounded the final corners towards the finish, someone handed me the most delicious homebrewed beer I’ve ever had. I downed about half of it before the announcer and random people in the crowd started yelling at me to ride the bike. I (temporarily) handed the beer off to a bystander and got to it… (photo courtesy of CyclingDirt)
Believe it or not, my two laps in 9 hours and change was good enough for 2nd place in the Solo Amateur Female category. I got a sweet DSG award and a Garmin Edge 205 computer. Woohoo!!! I’m looking forward to the next event. After more than 7 hours of bike non-riding, the thought of actually riding for a few hours more than that sounds easy.