Fool’s Gold 100 Race Report

Like I mentioned before, I went into this race with nothing to lose. Even though I recovered physically from my adventures out West, I’ve been an emotional sh*tstorm ever since coming back from Breck. I did, however, feel ready to face another 100 miler following my 100 mile breakup following Mohican back in the early parts of the season. It was the same weird combination of emotional exhaustion and magical leg power that I got during the latter part of the Breck Epic that propelled me upwards in a way that I even found surprising.

This feeling was confirmed on Friday afternoon when we pre-rode some of the first climb. I kept having to rein myself in because I felt like breaking the cranks off of my bike. Save it for tomorrow…

Too bad 100 mile promoters can’t allow a “late start” option for the racers who won’t be battling cutoff times on course. Ryan (who raced the 50 mile version) and I were up for 5am breakfast and out at the winery for a 7am start. The course began with 2 miles of neutral rollout. Surprisingly, it was neutral enough (my frame of reference is whether or not singlespeeders can keep up. I was riding geared, but I watched a large singlespeed pain-train develop behind Gerry Pflug during those 2 miles).

I wasn’t far behind Amanda and Cheryl when we reached the course, and, surprisingly enough, I was able to pace them with a non-heroic effort. I had no idea where Brenda and Lee Simril were, but I figured that if I was watching Amanda and Cheryl race, that I was doing alright. We reached the turn up the first climb, and I fell into a great rhythm. I’ve come to realize that, even though I’m not on a singlespeed, I can always pretend. I found a comfortable gear to stand on, and never looked back. It wasn’t until we were several miles up into the steeper sections of the climb (about 35 minutes in) that I lost sight of Cheryl and Amanda (it looked as if Cheryl turned the screws and Amanda made efforts to follow). I kept my own very awesome-feeling pace.

I stopped briefly at the first aid station (18 miles in) and took off down the road to the first section of awesome, zoomy singletrack. The next few hours would me more of the same. I felt great. I kept up with the same strategy- eat, drink, and don’t go too hard. There’s still another lap to do. Other than that, I didn’t think. I felt like robot programed to steer my bike through a 100 mile bike race. I finished the first lap in 4 hours, 30 minutes (looking at women’s 50 mile times, it could have been a helluva fight in that race). Then, my brain woke up.

Once I was started back up the hill to the next aid- a cooler drop, I felt tired. My head was listening this time instead of tuning out the fatigue. I made the mistake of thinking about how I could be back at the car, having a beer and eating lunch. I thought about the prospect of riding another 40something miles. Then, I remembered how I’d sworn off 100s earlier in the season for the same reasons. I loitered around the cooler drop long enough that Brenda, Lee, and another one of their teammates were pulling in as I was leaving. Well, damn.

The next hour or so, I swung wildly from “screw this” to “stop thinking and keep doing what you were doing when this didn’t suck.” Then, Brenda, Lee, and the other guy caught back up to me at the horse trail before the Bull Mountain loop. I didn’t put up much fight at that point. However, as I rode through one of the meadows that punctuated parts of the trail, I noticed that I was headed for a large, black cloud on the next mountain.

If you’ve never heard the horror stories of the 2010 Fool’s Gold race, I urge you to start poking around the internet for photos and race reports. The mud on course is a special type of wonderful- when it gets wet, it turns into liquid sandpaper. It destroys any moving bike parts it touches. So, when I saw the cloud, I decided that I needed to HTFU and get through the Bull Mountain part of the course ASAP so that I could avoid the worst case scenario.

When I arrived at the aid station at the base of the Bull loop, there were ambulances. I didn’t think much of it, but as I was filling bottles & having a snack, I caught wind of a guy who had wrecked, broken his pelvis, and been laying out there with paramedics trying to reach him for several hours (Bull Mountain isn’t really hard, tech-wise, but it’s got some sketchy downhill spots that can eff you up big time). As I started the climb, I realized that the timing of the guy’s wreck was just right for when Ryan passed though. I started envisioning Ryan wrecking and breaking his pelvis. Then, it started to rain.

I was in “chase down the guy with a broken pelvis” mode. I made it to the top of the mountain and started to pick my way down. I was rolling along at a good clip (not edge-of-control fast, but not holding back, either- maybe about 10-15mph?), when I rolled over some off-camber roots. Before I could even register the noise of a sliding front tire, I was flailing through the air and watching the ground approach my body at a high rate of speed. My right knee whacked into the base of a pine tree, and the rest of me landed on various other roots and ground-bound objects.

Ooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww

(That’s all I could think for about a minute)

I thought I’d broken my knee on the pine tree. Blood was already running out from under the mud on my knee and shin, and it hurt to wiggle my toes inside my shoe. I poked around on my torso to make sure that my ribs felt intact. When none of them hurt, I decided to get up and get back on the horse. My right bar-end had twisted itself straight up, so it took me a minute to fish my multi-tool out and re-position it. Luckily, the bike was OK. I was hurting.

Eventually, I caught up to the guy who had wrecked. He was being gurney-ed out, and a train of about 4 guys was pushing bikes behind him. I saw a bike the same color as Ryan’s (it’s an odd blue-ish turquoise that’s not very common) and my heart made it nearly to my toes before I realized the fork was white and the guy in the stretcher was balding. I made my way around the procession and finished the last mile or so to the aid station.

The next section of trail is slightly downhill and lots of fun, so it helped get my head back on right. My knee was aching, but I figured it’d hurt just as badly whether I went fast or slow. I finished the last 15 miles back in my “groove.” I ended up coming in about 9 minutes behind Brenda with 9 hours & 1 minute. Fourth place, and, surprisingly to me, good enough for 5th in the NUE series.

 

Here’s the post-race interview. It’s long and full of inside jokes and innuendo, but it’s also the only one I’ve done following more than one post-race beer. Enjoy:

 

Watch more video of 2012 Fool’s Gold 100 NUE Series Final on thom.cyclingdirt.org

 

It’s not often that I let my head get to me during a race. It gets to me during 100s. Shorter races, I can destroy myself. I can ride outside myself and find new levels of pain and enlightenment. Through this season, I’ve realized that 100 mile races, for me, are an exercise in boredom and extended fatigue. My future in racing is not in the 100 mile distance. I’m OK with that. I’m glad that I gave them a hard run and figured out that my strengths lie elsewhere.

What’s next? (other than a break from training while I take on LasVegas and Interbike) a few beers, a couple of late season regional XC races, and prep for Cyclocross.

Missing a good time

Judging by the photos and videos I’ve seen from face-friends, I missed a good time at the SM100 race.

This makes me a little sad- Shenandoah has always been a great race with an even better post-race party. Even though the race lost its  “final of the NUE series” billing, this year was no different. However, I’ve been in a slump since Breck. My legs felt fine within a few days of being home, but mentally, I’ve had little more motivation than to sit around and stare at the walls. I couldn’t bring myself to pack the car and get to the race. Maybe if I could have teleported myself and all my equipment there on race morning? It’s possible… there’s still that whole “Ride 100 miles” thing to get through, too.

This weekend, Ryan and I are going to Fool’s Gold. He’s gonna race 50, and I’m going for 100. I’m almost looking forward to it- the singletrack on course is a lot of fun ever since the trails were re-worked following the storm/mud debacle two years ago. Right now, there’s a 50% chance of rain on Saturday. My plan is to ride the geared bike, but the singlespeed is coming along as backup.

My bad start to the season, results-wise, kinda screwed me up for NUE series points. I’m going into this race with a similar feeling that I had before the super-awesome Wheeler/Stage 5 of Breck Epic- mentally vacant, physically unsure, and with absolutely nothing to lose.

Race relations and cycing in the greater Memphis area

First off, yeah, I’ve been bloggingly absent for a while. Isht happens, and sometimes I just don’t post. I’m sure you all understand.

This post is mostly about a revelation I had while riding with the guys from 901 Racing on Saturday.

 

If you’ve never lived (or spent some appreciable time in) The South, this might make it sound like everyone here is racist. We aren’t. However, The South has historically been a hotbed for racial tension in the United States. Warning- broad generalizations ahead: Because of this, the relationship between Caucasians and African Americans has an undertone of “us versus them.” It’s as if every person of one race defaults to “do not trust” until someone of the other race proves themselves to be “one of the good ones.” It goes both directions, and, in Memphis, is why there is a large amount of voluntary segregation in neighborhoods, churches, political districts, restaurants, and the like. As a (continuing) broad generalization, one group just chooses not hang out with the other one.

What my revelation?

Well, as a cyclist who often times trains on the road, I see my share of a-hole drivers. I’ve been yelled at, had things thrown at me, and, occasionally, someone threatens to hit me with their car. The people who do this are (whenever I can see the driver) white people. Also, as a cyclist who often times trains on the road, I’ve encountered some very kind people. While stopping for a water break, I’ve been offered breakfast, received invitation to join a church service, offered a ride when it was cold and rainy, and waved to/ cheered for by kids. All of those nice things? All black people.

Why? I have no idea. I didn’t post this to make speculations, I merely thought it was a very interesting observation. I like traveling out of The South because I like going to places where ethnic background is an afterthought when going through everyday life. I try to be that way wherever I am. I guess I wanted to post this because it makes me feel warm & fuzzy that when I ride my bike, some people’s kindness makes up for the abuse that other people see fit to dish out.

Strava Crap

I’ll be the first to say it- the internet brings out the worst in people.

Enter Strava. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you create a “KOM segment” on a map on their site, and they post a leaderboard for that segment with times of all people who have ridden that segment and uploaded the file to the site. It’s resulted in multiple deaths, injuries, run-ins with cars, hikers, horses, and hours of internet bickering over whether or not KOMs should count if you were drafting on a group ride.

It’s also a very good training motivation if you aren’t dumb.

As you may know, I had a very good day during Stage 5 of the Breck Epic. How good? Well, see for yourself… (Scroll down past “men’s leaderboard.” Do it. It’s awesome.)

Back here in Memphis, the segments are (mostly) limited to short stuff- they’re little hills or 2-5 minute drag race strips of road. I’ve grown somewhat bored with them, so I have started creating long segments. I’m not sure if anyone will bite, but at least the “ride hard for longer than 5 minutes” gauntlet has been thrown down. Here ya go, dorks:

 

 

Also, here’s a little gravel flavor for you:

 

There will be more.

Solidified

I knew I’d make up my mind eventually.

Saturday morning, I headed out in the rain to meet the guys from 901 Racing on their mostly social/partial hammer ride. It was sprinkling rain when I left, and alternately sprinkled/showered all the way to the meet-up spot in Midtown (unlike Breckenridge rain, when it rains here in August, the temperature stays well into the 80s). When I arrived at the coffee shop at 8:30, no one was there. I waited around for a few minutes, but, by 8:35, was tired of standing in the rain and figured they’d bailed because of the weather (I thought about waiting on the back porch of the coffee shop, but there were three people under there smoking. I’ll take rain over that). So, I rode back home, giving me nearly two hours of solo rain riding.

Turns out, they were all just really late.

I honestly didn’t care. I’m still recovering from Breck Epic- both physically and mentally. Physically, my legs are steadily gaining ground. They ache with hard efforts, but seem to be tracking back towards “beast mode” at a steady pace. Mentally, my transition back to the reality of non traveling/racing is an exercise in re-learning how to feign interest in the mundanity of everyday life. Unlike physical recovery, this isn’t a smooth, steady line of improvement. Suddenly, it’s time to deal with work, people, and not having the “job” of racing my bike 4-5 hours a day. It’s coming back slowly.

If you’ve been reading here the past week, you know I’m trying to make up my mind on a September schedule. I have tried not to stress this decision since I figure that it would become more obvious as time crept along. Like my previous indecision about the Pierre’s Hole race, the answer came to me during a ride. While I was soloing in the rain, I hashed through everything in my head with little to no interruption and was able to come up with a more concrete plan that seemed to settle well into my brain.

Next weekend is the Shenandoah 100. I don’t feel like driving to Virgina to race 100 miles. It’s one of my favorite courses and an even better party following the race, but the drive to get there takes longer than the race itself. Also, with the growing popularity of the race, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 people in attendance. It’s getting crowded. I could use the NUE points, but I just can’t convince myself that I want to go, and, as I’ve discovered in the past, if your head isn’t in it, bad things happen.

Also happening next weekend is a more local, shorter race- the School of Hard Nox 50. It’s in Mississippi. Depending on what Coach says to do, I might try that one. However, there may be one weather-related issue…

Race location:

The kicker:

I have no idea what the trail’s capacity is for terrible weather. So, the race’s fate rests in the hands of the weather and my coach. I’ll happily go either way.

The weekend after that is Fool’s Gold. Ryan and I are going to that (he’s decided to race the 50 mile version). While the start/finish location of the race makes it a terrible spot for a post-race party, the course itself is entertaining. It’s also the final race of the NUE series, so I get to say goodbye to all of my endurance racing friends for the winter.

Then what?

I’m going to Interbike. I can’t back out now- I’ve already bought the plane ticket and a pack of business cards. I’m flying out on the 18th and back on the 21st. I dread it, but, at the same time, I am relatively certain that I’ll have a good time. Hopefully, while I’m there, I can impress some important people with my endless charm and good looks.

The time following Fool’s Gold (encompassing Interbike) will likely contain my post-season break. Gotta rest before I start getting ready for cross…

Overnight change

Last night, I posted a “help wanted” in this spot looking for someone to help me out at the Pisgah Stage Race. Turns out, between the race entry, 7 nights in a motel, and potentially boarding the dogs for all/part of the trip (I’d originally thought that Ryan would be in town for the week), the cost of traveling and racing is just too much.

I’m still a little undecided on interbike, but motivation to find an epic adventure-friendly team is definitely high. Irons in the fire? Sure, I’ve got a couple cooking, but I’m not sure how hot the fire is under there. Anyone I talk to says they’ll know after Interbike.

I hate the frustration of indecision, but at least I’ve decided I can’t go to Pisgah.

Audience Poll

September is full off awesome stuff, race-wise. I can’t make up my mind, so I’m gonna ask the 200 or so people who read here on a daily basis and maybe take your advice into account when making my decision.

Schedule #1:
Sept 2nd: Shenandoah 100
15th: Pisgah Monstercross Challenge
17-22nd: Pisgah MTB Stage Race

Schedule #2:
Sept 2nd: Shenandoah 100
8th: Fool’s Gold 100
18th-21: Fly out to Interbike and “network”

Pros/Cons of either?
-First off, I hate flying, Vegas, and any sort of convention where people mill around like animals. I have, however, been told by more than one person who “knows” what they’re talking about that if I ever want to achieve the dream of becoming a professional cyclist that I need to get there and meet people in the industry. Ok, I get it.
-I haven’t had a chance to ride much at Pisgah other than ORAMM. I’m super stoked on tech/fun singletrack right now, and I loved stage racing, so the Pisgah Stage Race sounds like an awesome time.
-Ever since the repairs made to the singletrack at Fool’s Gold, I very much enjoy the race course.

So? What do you think? 1 or 2?  Comment here or on the Brickhouse Racing Facebook page (link over there to the right in the sidebar)

Next?

So, now that I’ve conquered The Epic, what do I do for an encore?

I think that this trip solidified my wishes to (next season) leave 100 mile racing to people who enjoy racing for >7 hours at a time. I like the 3-6 hour timeframe. I like stage racing. I like stuff that’s really damn hard.

I’m entered in the Shenandoah 100 and Fools Gold 100 right now. Both are terrible singlespeed courses if you’re racing geared riders (especially the SM100). With races scheduled 1 week apart, I’m not sure which I’m planning on doing, but I’m leaning more towards Fool’s Gold. Both, you say? Yeah, of course I’m thinking about going to both. It’s sooooooo much driving, though…

Then there’s always the Pisgah Stage Race the 17th-22nd. I loved riding the tech stuff at Breck. Maybe I’d love Pisgah more?

I don’t know… I’ll probably figure it out the week before Shenandoah.

Breck Epic- Stage 7

Stage 7?

What- haven’t you ever heard of the 19th hole on the golf course?

When I started the Breck Epic, I didn’t even know that there was something called “Stage 7.” I did, however, know that up until this point, I’ve trained my ass off, been early to bed/rise, sacrificed the consumption of many beers and all sorts of highly caloric food, and proceeded to race harder than I ever thought possible. All of those things, when combined in a chronic manner, can lead to burnout. I’m not saying that I’m burnt out by any stretch, I’m just saying that I have fully celebrated Stage 7 in a way that is satisfying to the burnout-prevention soul.

Last night, after the final awards ceremony, I headed over to a local dive bar with a bunch of other racers. I had a couple of beers (really- just a couple… they’re stronger at altitude) and proceeded to dance to cheesy pop club music for at least the next two hours. Today, I had breakfast at the Blue Moose (favorite breakfast place in Breck), sat by the river and drank coffee, laid around for a while, and ate lunch at Empire Burger. They have an all-natural, local beef burger. I got one with fries. Gawd, it’s to die for.  After a short ride, I lounged around, packed, and met the last remaining racers I knew still in town for pizza (and a couple more beers).

It’s all about decompression. The mental aspect of preparing for and executing a race like the Breck Epic is equally as hard as the physical aspects. Of course, I love doing it. I also love acting like a normal human being for a few days after it. Tomorrow, I’m heading back towards Memphis. I still love Memphis, and I still consider the Syllamo Trails to be more difficult (technically speaking) than anything I’ve found on my most recent adventure.

Ok, so maybe the high pass, over-the-treeline descents are more terrifying. At least there aren’t as many rocks up there. The rocks around here don’t get slippery when they’re wet, either.

I’ll be sad to leave, but I miss home equally as much as I don’t want to leave here. Hopefully, next summer will include more Epic-ness and adventure.

 

Breck Epic- Stage 6

The final stage of the Epic was an “easy” course day, with only around 3500ft of climbing. At last night’s singlespeeder get-together at the burrito place, most of the guys agreed that today was a parade lap- sort of like the last stage of the Tour de France, but with PBR instead of champagne, and no sprint at the end.

Jen and I talked a little at the start. It was kind of an “I’ll race if you’re racing” thing, but we ended up just hanging out & riding together at a pretty easy pace for the duration of the course. We had our battle yesterday- She didn’t really let on to how she felt, but I was pretty wrecked. So, she was nice on the climbs, and I ceased to descend like I had a death wish. We stopped at the Boreas Pass aid station and took a shot of Maker’s Mark. It made the final descent- a slightly rocky & gnarly jeep road- a little more interesting.

After hanging around at the finish and watching some more racers come through, I headed back up to the condo to un-chamois and eat some lunch. It’s now that I’m sitting around back at the condo with nothing to do that I realize I can act like a normal person for a few days instead of worrying about getting an afternoon nap, getting enough post-race calories, getting the right type of calories, getting plenty of electrolytes with my water, making sure my bike is ready for tomorrow, or whatever else it is that needs to be taken care of the afternoon following the other 5 stages.

I’ve got 2 more hours to kill before the last awards ceremony and nothing to do but think about what a great week of racing it’s been. I think I’ll have a beer.