My brain still isn’t totally working right now, but I figured I’d get something out here to keep everyone interested…
It’s always a relief to wake up just before the phone alarm clock goes off on a race-day morning. After an on-off night of sleep, I was glad to see that it was time to get up when I woke up for the 5th or 6th time. We struck camp and headed up to Oden School for breakfast and the race start.
I don’t want to jinx myself, but if I could finish a race as well as I can start it, then I’d be kicking Amanda Carey’s butt right now.
I pedaled around and made it to the start area in time to grab a spot that would put me in good pack position for the course rollout. It was a great move, because, like Southern Cross, it meant that I’d be racing from the front. Out of sight, out of mind… or something like that.
I maintained a good position/pace all the way up the pavement/forest road to the first singletrack. Once I was there, I actually felt more at home and settled into a (probably too hard) nice pace. I was feeling great for all three of the Ouachita Trail mountains- especially Blowout, where I gave out sage advice like, “you can ride that, just pedal like hell!” With a suspension fork on it, the Air9 felt like a downhill bike. Unfortunately, I also passed Ryan, who was walking with his bike and yelled at me that he’d endoed and hit his face on a rock. I had to block out the worry and concentrate on not succumbing to the same fate. Chalybeate (pronounced “clee-bit”) was hard, but I made it over without much issue.
The next section was an 8 mile piece of pavement with a nice, 15-20mph headwind. Luckily, I found a guy who was giving off a roadie vibe. I commented on the firmness of his legs and he was happy to let me draft until we passed through Sims, where he pulled off to get some water. I didn’t want to stop, so I kept pressing on. Who cares about a little wind…
Soon enough, I passed through the next aid station where I refilled my camelbak and took to the Womble trail. For a few miles, the trail was relatively flat. My legs were feeling questionable, so I tried to flow where I could and spin where I couldn’t. Unfortunately, once the Mauldin Mountain climb started around mile 40, cramp karma tried to get me back for last year where I’d passed Namrita O’Dea when she started to cramp in the same spot. My inner thighs would seize up violently when the trail would pitch up. A few times, I tried getting off of my bike to stretch, but when I would stand up straight, my quads would cramp equally as badly.
Straight spelunking into the pain cave.
If I stopped for a few minutes then continued at an easy pace, I could probably alleviate the cramps enough to get through the last 20 miles with fewer issues. If I stopped for a few minutes, I would seriously risk the win I’d been working on all day. I don’t know if anyone who reads is wondering what goes through someone’s head in that situation, but that day, it was my coworkers at Outdoors. Our store is like a family, and I wanted to represent them as hard as possible. I won’t say I didn’t utter (aka “yell”) multiple obscenities, but I went as went as fast as I could without totally locking up.
I don’t remember much about the last 15 miles or so. I wrecked once in a powdery/rooty/steep section of bench trail, but I think the short break was not a bad thing. Also, going down the last of the forest road hills, my left triceps cramped a little. When I made it to the pavement, I was looking over my shoulder more than I was looking ahead of me. I cramped up the last pitch to the finish line, and I think I cried a little bit once I crossed.
So, yeah. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win nonetheless. If Laureen had been there, she would have been on me like Lady Gaga on a meat dress. I feel somewhat lucky, but not totally. I think I died a little bit out there. I had this song in my head most of the time: