First, I have to thank a couple of people-
Eric… my crew guy. He met me at most of the aid stations and did some lightning-fast hydration bladder swaps as well and having everything I could possibly need laid out each time. He also looks a lot like a short Colin Farrell. Any time I’d introduce him to someone, they thought he looked familiar, which was pretty entertaining…
Next is Todd Henne- he’s been a great Womble/Ouachita tour guide to me the past few months, and he let us stay at his place right on the trail & play around on the pump track. He’s an awesome recon guy for both the trail and the people of interest that ride it.
So, on to the race report.
The race started from Oden, AR at 8:00 to the sound of a ringing church bell. The first 8.5 miles were a little pavement & some gravel. My plan was to really concentrate on pacing myself. I tend to go out too fast then end up “death marching” the last 20 or so miles of a race, so, when we hit a few rollers, I forced myself to sit back & spin while others kept the intensity up. It was painful to watch the ride away, but I knew that I wouldn’t last the entire 60 miles if I stuck with the lead group.
I kept the disciplined pacing going across the 3 Ouachita trail mountains (Brushy, Blowout, and Chalybeate). Over the latter 2, I was back & fourth with local gal Heather. However, once we hit the forest service road, my bladder was about to explode (NOT the one in my Wingnut pack!), so I was forced to pull off for a “nature break” while she rode away from me.
That stretch of gravel went on for about 8 miles and cut off the hardest part of the Womble. I made sure to keep my tempo pace nice & steady, and managed to find a guy to trade pulls with so we could make up a little time. Once we reached highway 88, I got my much needed pack swap. While I was stopped, Namrita O’dea from Topeak-Ergon flew past me onto the singletrack. When I started going again, it was tempting to chase, but I reminded myself that I still had a long way to go, including two more significant climbs.
The remainder of the singletrack before the 298 aid station passed quickly, though the gravel seemed to go on forever. When I got there, Eric told me that Namrita was a couple of minutes ahead, and that there was about 15 miles left. I was feeling good, so I decided it was time to burn the matches and empty the tank on the last bit of singletrack up & over Mauldin Mountain.
After numerous mudholes and creeks, the climb started. I finally caught sight of her and, unlike the other climbs, started to push the pace a bit. It seemed like forever, but I finally caught up and passed her. From then on, I rode as hard as I could and never looked back. Exhilarating!
Approaching the finish, I actually saw Heather up the road from me, though we were within a 1/2 mile, so there was no catching her. I ended up 4th in the women’s field (Carey Lowery won, finishing about 5o minutes before me!)
I am really, really happy with my ride. I now have a really good feel for what type of pace I can sustain for that type of distance. I finished with a little bit of gas in the tank, so I know that next time, I can push a little harder in the parts where it’d be most advantageous to meÃ‚ (like windy fire road sections where I could either draft off of someone faster or put my head down and go at it TT style). With one weekend open before the Mississippi Grand Prix, I am planning on heading out to ride at Syllamo with some friends to get in a little more rock garden practice before Syllamo’s Revenge in just over a month.