We got up and each did our normal “race prep routines” and loaded up the bikes. Then the important question – what do we wear!? It was supposed to be a high of 54 degrees! Kenny went with summer gear, Andy went with base layer and picked up some knee warmers at the bike shop the night before, Shep did base layer and arm/knee warmers. I quickly realized I forgot my arm warmers – good thing Andy let me borrow his or I would have been coooold on the bike! I went with knickers, jersey and my borrowed arm warmers!
We then headed over to put our bikes on the shuttles and catch the bus. A miscommunication when we picked up our race packets put us there about 45 minutes before the busses were supposed to be there. Luckily there was a tent with a heater to keep warm. We finally got on the bus and took it to the start (about a 30 minute ride).
We then got our bikes and got into line. We started around 9:15 a.m. on the course. The plan was for Kenny and Andy to stick together and support each other and Shep was going to stay around me to make sure I was okay as well.
The time trial started with double track then to a creek crossing (thank goodness for a small portable bridge and water proof socks!), then the first climb. Kenny, Andy and Shep did a great job of warning me of what was coming up and when to expect things. The first climb was about three miles and about 670 feet of climbing. A tough one, but doable if you had the training under your belt. My experience was interesting. It reminded me of Iceman – a bunch of people in a hurry to get to the climb only to get off their bikes in front of you. Frustrating, but I had to get through many of the sections and say “rider up..” The single track was some rocks and roots, but it was all wet from the rain the day before – it was challenging, but lots of fun until we started the first descent. The bottom was like peanut butter, I was so glad to have my new tires – Schwalbe Nobby Nics on the rear – I had NO problems with traction! This was great! I made it up anything I put my mind to and I was feeling great (moving slowly but great!) I rode with some nice people along the way; they all had that southern hospitality. That was the major difference between this and other races I have done.
I got to about mile 21ish when there were a few creek crossings and I was essentially by myself – it was beautiful scenery and actually warm! I then began to climb back up to aid station two where I saw a young guy who was struggling with cramps. I offered him some mustard (I think he thought I was crazy until he tried it and it worked!) I then got to the second aid station and met up with Shep to ride the final 10ish miles. This was the most mentally taxing part of the race. The rocks were wet, oddly shaped and had mud in spots. I rode what I could and we got to about mile 28 and I just wanted to be done. We ran into a local who said we still had about three miles left … ugggghhhhhh, but then the answer to our prayers appeared through the fog – the cell phone towers – this was it! I heard Shep scream – YES! And we were off onto the downhill sketchy gravel road then pavement to the finish line! 7 hours an 34ish miles later and we finished the race! Thank you Shep for waiting up for me, it was great to have your humor out on the trail keeping me positive! My goal was to not to come in last and I didn’t!!
I can’t wait to give it another go – given different conditions and some more training under my belt I think I can do MUCH better … I guess you can say I was bitten by the snake. :)