Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Army Mountain Ranger Race

This day was on the calender for a long time. Only it wasn't supposed to be a mountain bike race in Dahlonega, Georgia. It was supposed to be a team race in Winder, Georgia. I had planned on competing with my good friend Trace Nabors in the Dirty Spokes 6 Hr MTB Race at Fort Yargo. I was ready to spend the day suffering, but with friends. It's not an uncommon plan. But as I got ready to register us I needed Traces address so I emailed him.
He responded and also let me know that the Ranger Race was the same day. He loves that race. He's won it before. Trace likes the solitary pain of a solo XC race I guess. I've heard about it for years. The race begins with a 3 mile climb up some crazy dirt road. The whole thing basically takes place on gravel roads that traverse around the Chattahoochee National Forest where the Army Rangers at Camp Frank Merrill train. There are 5K & 15K runs for people in every category. But for the mountain bike race there's only two categories, Male and Female. And the course...ain't easy.

I could tell that Trace really wanted me to do this race with him. I told him at the beginning of the year we'd do "whatever". No committing to a championship series. We'd just go do what we wanted to do. So, to stay true to that I told him we'd go race this thing as two solo's instead of the team race at Yargo.

Keep in mind that I've never done this race. Heck I've never even been to Camp Frank Merrill. I was excited and nervous. But with my Ranger Race veteran with me everything should be great. I can just follow his lead when it comes to the pace because otherwise I had no idea how far it was to the top of the climbs we faced. Easy. I'll pick him up, he shows me the way, I just have to pedal. Me likey.

Trace calls my cell as I'm very quietly trying to get ready. He can't go. A soap opera has erupted at his house and there's nothing he can do. OK...I'll just break out the old GPS and get myself to camp. I'm no coward after all. There's bound to be someone there I know. So off I went.

Racers line up for the 5K
When I got there I parked in a field at the top of a mountain. They directed me down to registration where I saw all the runners gathering for the start of the 5K. I looked around but didn't see anyone I new. I went inside the gym to registration. They were very organized and helpful. I glanced at the registration list but didn't see anyone on it that I new. Before leaving the gym I found the restroom. And there he was...David Shabat. My good friend and team mate from last season. He was there with his wife Linka and son Ben. (Not all in the same restroom).  Linka was running the 15K and he was racing the bike race with Ben.
Ben and David Shabat
I started feeling better. David gave me some additional advice. Trace had been texting me advice all morning (he felt so bad). I went back to the car and suited up.
Kirk Lindquist
When I came back down to the finish line I met a new friend named Kirk Lindquist. He's a really nice guy and it turns out he's friends with Chad Edwards and Stephen Dean. But I don't hold that against him. He gave me some advice as well and soon we were lining up at the starting line.
I looked around at the other racers. I didn't recognize any of them. I did pick out a guy on a cyclocross bike though. I was lined up on the very front with Kirk to my right. I told him I was worried about the guy on the cross bike. He'll probably be able to go up the hills really fast.

The Start
Here's something I knew...but forgot. A guy with a bull horn came up and said, "OK riders, I'll say riders set!... and you'll know when to go". Everyone laughed?
Um, Okaay? I looked at Kirk who just smiled at me. The guy with the bull horn stepped back out of the way... said Riders Set! and...


I completely forgot that one of the unique things they do at this race is to start the races with a Hand Grenade Simulator. I jumped when it happened and couldn't get clipped in like I usually do. The field took off all around me and we headed straight into the first climb. I had no idea where I was and assumed Kirk knew what he was doing when he blasted up the first 200 meters. I followed him until he looked back at me and decided to stop. We looked around as we pedaled and could see there was about 5 of us off the front early.The cyclocross guy was there too (his name is Max Perethian).

Tracy Saine
Then I met Tracy Saine. I know now that he's a really nice guy. He made his way to the front and set a tough pace. After about 5 minutes I began to wonder what kind of group we had left so I looked back and realized it was just us. I thought as we climbed that we can't possibly hold this pace for over 2 more miles. Well he could. As the climb pitched up at the last mile he kept the same pace. I could not. I was too nervous about what the next 20 miles of unknown racing had in store. I had no idea what obstacles lay ahead. I justified that if I max myself out to stay on his wheel I'll burn too many matches and have nothing left. So I let him go and kept my pace.

I regret that decision now because despite my best efforts for the next hour and a half I never saw him again. Here's what I know about Tracy now; he's a former PRO1/2 racer, he's finished first at Six Gap, he probably weighs...I'm guessing...130 pounds. He's a local who pre-rode the course the weekend before the race. In fact when I was with him on the climb I thought I was chasing a young punk when actually he's 40 years old...like me! I'm actually telling you guys all this to make myself feel better about getting my legs ripped off by him.

I chased my brains out and couldn't catch him. The fresh gravel on the road at the back side of the mountain made for some difficult pedaling. It reminded me of pedaling through a grassy field. There were several miles of rollers on the gravel road before making a left turn and descending the famous Winding Stair road. Holy Cow! I've heard about it. I even heard some guys at the start saying how they thought they could get 40 MPH going down it today. I thought, "Right, 40MPH on a mountain bike." Well guess what my max speed for the day was...41 MPH! I was really hoping that Tracy was a wimp at descending. Wrong. He's a kamikaze like me.

So... 2nd place for me. But it did help me stay in front of Max the cyclocross guy who took 3rd Place. An impressive finish since he had to troll his way through the fresh crush and run gravel with those thin road wheels. While I waited at the finish line to get a photo of David and Ben my friend Gary Martin walked up. He's a teacher and he brought a student with him to run the 5K. Trouble was they missed the start...but didn't realize it and joined the 15K that started afterwards. Ouch. Great job Gary!? Really taught him a lesson!

Me...totally blown.
I changed clothes and met up with the Shabat Family, Kirk, and Tracy for the awards. Linka got 2nd in her race. Cool! I received a piton (I think that's what it's called) with Second Place on it...very cool.
Tracy received a Rock Climbing Ax!! Boy was I jealous. Trace Nabors told me they give plaque's! This ax was the coolest thing I've ever seen!

Tracy let me hold it.
After collecting myself I headed back to the truck and hurried home. My family was at a school festival and I didn't want to miss a thing. On the way out I slipped through about 100 vehicles parked on the sides of the road. Folks were coming out for the Camp's Open House. You see the races are just the appetizer. The Rangers put on clinics and demonstrations. They open the place up for anyone to come hang out. I'd have loved to stay and see all the cool stuff going on.

Oh well. Maybe next year I'll bring the kids. It looks really cool doesn't it?

So that's this weekends adventure. I'm looking forward to the next one which it seems will be a combo. I plan to ride in the LAP Century (45 miles) on Saturday morning and then do the Gainesville Cycling Gran Prix (44 miles) in the afternoon. Pretty stupid but I want to support both events.

Until next time...don't do anything I wouldn't do! (gives you a lot of room for error)

Chad Hayes

1 comment:

  1. Very Cool!!! I would've love to have done this ride but I had already signed up for the 9 hour Yargo race.