This picture explains all you need to know about this race. It was the Dirty Spokes Productions 6/9 Hour Mountain Bike race at Fort Yargo, Winder. It was raining cats and dogs. I still don't know why I went ahead with this race. It trashed my brakes. I spent 1 hour with a hose in the driveway cleaning the bike, my clothes, my shoes. Lisa still had to wash my clothes twice. I was picking mud out of my ears and eyes for two days. I was chilled to my bones for two days. But I take some solace in the fact that a whole lot of others started and finished this race with me. We are all crazy.
I got there early to set up a tent and figure out how to race this thing. While I worked on setting up I saw many regulars doing the same. I also noticed some people parking, walking to registration, getting the goodie bag and shirt and then driving on back home. At the time I scoffed at the thought of doing that but now I feel there was some wisdom there.
I crashed on the first lap. Smacked a tree with my body. I was chasing the lead group and we headed down a hill in the single track. I could see what needed to be done and decided to scrub some speed in order to make a left hand turn. This is where I learned what conditions like this do to your brakes. They tend not to work like you want them to. So when I didn't get the desired response I squeezed a little harder. With that action my front wheel locked up and I started sliding uncontrollably toward a nice healthy pine tree similar to the one in the background of the first picture. I was carrying a great amount of speed but there was enough distance to my undesired target for me to think through just how I wanted this crash to end. I shoved my bike to the left and away from me and it sailed on down the trail. In my mind that should have caused my body to skip off the other side of the tree and I would land softly in the pine straw. Physics, the only real problem with any split second ideas men have, helped me separate the bike from my body but did nothing to change the trajectory of my body. I managed to turn my shoulder to the tree and hit it perfectly with the entire right side of my body. All the air left my lungs and I bounced off the tree back onto the muddy trail. I immediately jumped up and grabbed my bike.
Are you kidding? No I didn't. I crouched on all fours trying to re-inflate my lungs. Then I hobbled back to my bike like an old man chasing the kid who stole his cane.
I still have a large bruise on my right leg and some knee pain.
I'd be happier with a scar.
|Trace and Dustin Mealor consider their decision.|
Each of us got in a lap before the talk started. The talk centered around how the trail was being demolished and our bikes were failing. Injuries were growing. People were considering abandoning because there was no end in sight to the weather. In fact the radar showed a serious storm on the way. The race organizer, Tim, walked around trying to get a feel for what the racers wanted to do. At the time Randy was on course and I would be next. We got the word that the race would go on for another hour and 15 mins. Enough time for me to get in another lap? Yep. And since we were in the lead I didn't want to give that up so I headed out knowing it was my final lap.
|Dustin discovered they were the sole Expert 2 Person Male Team|
|Expert 2 Person Male, Rob and Dustin|
For the next hour I used every muscle in my body to balance my bike in the soup mud. Parts of the trail were like riding through a river. My brakes sounded like metal on metal but that was the only thing wrong with my GIANT. I love that bike!
I passed a lot of frustrated people. I made sure they knew the race had been shortened but it didn't seem to matter. I think they were done regardless. I realized while climbing up the power line climb that in this race, on a day like today, the climbs were the best part. I could be sure of where my bike was going. I could see the trail and know that if I did fall over it would be soft landing. Obviously I resolved to not crash again. I figured the time I lost by being careful was the same as the time I'd loose if I crashed again. Now that there's wisdom.
Me and the boys scored another victory for ourselves. It was a real tough day to try and race a mountain bike and I'm not prepared to say it was worth it. We had some version of fun that isn't defined. It exists in the future at a place where I'm sitting around with friends and we're talking about the time we raced at Fort Yargo in a monsoon. A "fish" story in which you only need credit for starting the race. For attempting the race. For being crazy.
We were all... crazy.
|Three Person Male 6 Hr MTB at Fort Yargo. Cinco de Mayo!|
Things I learned about mountain bike racing in the rain:
- If you have a beater bike with rim brakes... ride it. But brake early to make sure you can.
- Wear glasses. Snow ski goggles if you have them. Your eye lashes don't stand a chance of keeping the grit out.
- It's not popular but I wore a helmet cover. It was a little heavy but it shielded my face and head at times. It was nice to only have to wash my mouth and nose. Plus my helmet stayed clean.
- Ride in the center of the trail no matter what. The edges are soft. The center is hard underneath the thin layer of mud.
- The same rules on single track are more important; brake before the corner, lean the bike not the body, stay on the trail, keep straight up on the bridges or you'll slide right off.
- Don't wear boots. They just fill up with water.
- Wool is your best friend. Unless you can afford Goretex.
- If you're on a team, keep from getting cold while you wait. Change clothes each lap or use an old blanket to stay warm. Physically you're fine once you get back out but mentally you'll want to quit before your next lap.
- Bring plenty of water. It's weird but we needed water for things other than drinking. A big water cooler is best.
- Don't bring the family. Misery does not love company. Girl friends either. Crazy isn't fun to them. It's just stupid.
And so ends another adventure in North Georgia. I heard there were some road races going on this same weekend but nobody told me any cool stories so it must have gone well.
Next up is the LAP Century in Lula, Georgia. I love this ride and can't wait to tell you all about it.
Thanks for reading!