Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ouachita Challenge

We had a great time and I want to first off say thanks to all the great volunteers, promoters, and folks that make this happen.
If there was one photo that summed the emotions of this soiree it would be this one

Photo Cred Josh Patterson
There is Surprise, bewilderment, disgust and great pleasure all coming together in a kodak moment.

Waller graciously let us commandeer his car and we split up the driving. Waller made a point to sample the local delicacies of gas station table fare.

Photo Cred John Waller
The caramel corn cob and a substance dubiously refereed to as "Party Olives".
We stayed a the Mena Mtn top cabins and were joined by Joe Bob, Hershey, Jeremy, Kelsey, Adam, Patterson and his lovely lady Jaime.

The first morning we tooled around and got to go preride some of the course. Since the Tour was going on we stuck to the 80 mile course just past the first aid station. This is a great section to just absolutely tear it up. Fast flowing trails. Much fun!
I spent the afternoon resting and taking it easy after a gut busting session at the Chinese food buffet. Then I retired back to the cabin to be regaled with stories from Joe Bob, Hershey and Jeremy.

Waller, Slater, Kelsey and Adam went bouldering and exploring around Mena.

Photo Cred John Waller
They came up with some pretty interesting stuff.

Photo Cred John Waller
It reads "a brother might not be a homie, but a homie will always be a brother" Welcome to Arkansas.
Sunday Morning met us with the threats of showers, but we got to Oden and were ready to roll with the pack. It was pretty obvious that this was gonna be a tough race as I was able to watch all the real players pull away on the first 5 miles of road, leaving me in the midst of old guys (no offense old guys) and other underachieving singlespeeders (aren't we all?).
I started moving forward at a pretty good clip as the incline turned up, and was able to start passing folks on the fire road climbs. once we topped out on that first climb the trail was littered with people going down with flats. I just slicked my eyebrows back and let it roll on the descent and hoped that nothing really bad happened.

The first 20 miles was a mix of riding slowly while people navigated the creek crossings, and being spun out on the fire roads. After making it to the first checkpoint I started the vicious cycle of ingesting PB&J sandwiches and chugging cytomax. Joe Bob and I teamed up for the next section of singletrack and took turns pulling. One of my favorite sections of this race was descending the knife edge ridge of Reed mtn. as you descent towards the lake.

Photo Cred Josh Patterson
Then we pulled into aid station 2 and were subjected to all sorts of banana hammock weirdness.

Photo Cred Josh Patterson
We were really lucky to have Slater there to make sure things went smoothly. As I rolled into the check point I saw Patterson leaving to start the ascent to chalybeate Mtn. Chalybeate was indicative of what was to come. Super steep hike a bike stuff. This section really took a lot of time and i walked most of it, since trying to grunt your way up steep climbs on a SS is a losing proposition.
I caught up with John from North KC and we pushed our bikes together for a while. Really a phenomenal guy, he built his own kayak then mounted his bike and a trailer onto the deck of the kayak, and paddled this down the MO River from one side of the state to the other. Then he hooked his trailer to his bike, loaded the kayak onto the trailer and rode back across the state. Once we made it up Chalybeate we rode the ridges for about 8 miles. Then you descended this screaming downhill with waterbar launch pads every 100 yards. Sorta like What Greenslick used to be like outside of Asheville. It was sweet.

Then you joined back up with the 60 mile route and joined the climb and descent into Station 3.
Up until this point I had not really paid any attention to cutoff times or the like. Cutoff times have never affected me. Well I passed a SSer with about 2 miles to go till checkpoint three and he was looking at his monstrous GPS and surmised that we had about 10 minutes to go 2 miles. 10 minutes till what, I asked? Till the cutoff time! That got my attention and I commenced to start laying it down. I was really amazed how good I felt trying to lay down a lot of power late in the race, and despite my screaming speed coming down the mountain into rock row I missed the cutoff by a couple of minutes.
WOW, that was a wake up call. Its never fun being told, "you are not going fast enough". Well then I had to start the dejected 10 mile ride back to the finish line via fire roads and Tarmac.
The temperature was dropping and the wind had picked up, so it was looking to be a pretty miserable ride back. I did manage to catch a ride with Dave Fox who served as the course marshal on blowout mountain. We ended up picking up the rest of the Cycle City crew along the way as they got pulled a little earlier than I did.
We got back to the school and saw Waller who finished 65th in the 60 mile races despite running a fever and being sick. After a hot shower and some food and drink Waller and I set out to find out what had happened to Patterson. He was one of the last riders to make it through checkpoint 3,

Photo Cred John Waller
so we headed in the direction of check point 4 via the twisty gravel roads in rally car fashion, blazing through creek crossings and just having a blast.
That is until Waller attempted to cross one of the creek crossings in reverse

Photo Cred John Waller
Apparently the plastic of a Honda is not meant to withstand the opposing force of hitting water at 30 mph in reverse. I have never laughed so hard in my life. We ziptied the bumper back on and went to meet Patterson and Slater back in Oden. We then packed it in and started the long drive back to KS.

What really worked well for me
  • Wheels. I did this race on a brand new set of wheels freshly laced by a custom wheel builder. Hope ProII laced to Stans ZTR Arch Rims with SuperComp spokes good stuff!
  • Suspension I saw a lot of guys do this race on rigid bikes, and I was glad I had some squish. The descents were as demanding as the ascents.
  • Taking the time to have some fun and talk to people along the way.
What I did not like:
  • Getting pulled 20 miles from the finish when I still had 4 hours of daylight left. They were really serious that if your were not an elite racer with the capacity to average 10 mph throughout the race, you probably would not finish it. I am interested to see how many if any SS actually finished the 80 mile event.
I do not think I will do the 80 mile event again. I really enjoyed the Womble section of the 80 mile route but other than that there really was nothing spectacular about that route unless you really are into pushing you bike on really rocky trails. Plus I do not think that I could go fast enough to finish it unless I had some gearing.
Good times all around though!


pc_loadletter said...

That report made me smile.

Keep up the good work


Cornbread said...

You SS 80 milers are crazy. :)

Glad to hear you had fun and it sounds like you're riding really well. Congrats. Sorry to hear you got pulled. Hopefully the organizers will extend cutoff times for the 80 milers next year.

FYI, I only saw on 80 miler SS finish, but there could have been more.

Brad said...

Loved the bumper! I was dead last at the Cohutta 65 last year. At one point I was riding with the course sweeper. This was after I realized that I had made a wrong turn onto the 100 mile course. My 65 turned into 87. If there would have been a cut-off time I surely would have missed it there!

Joshua Stamper said...

I did a 6 hour race last summer where I went out for a last lap in 3rd place before the cramps set in. After rolling on the ground screaming in pain I limped through the last lap with the EMS guy following on a ATV, sorta like how a buzzard circles a dying animal. I was the last person off the course that day:-)
Yeah that was a pretty steep cutoff time. I should have heeded the prophetic warnings about the "big dog" pace. oh well live and learn, sure beats the alternative.
Looking forward to having yall down later this spring.

the technIAn said...

I raced my SS in the 80 mile open category and managed to finish. I got registered by a friend and quite honestly didn't want to even think about doing it SS. It was a dumb idea, but a great test of mental fortitude. It was obviously stupid hard physically. I hiked for what felt like 4 hours. I say go knock the race out next time around. I'll only be back to do the 80 on gears. Congrats on making it as far as you did. I don't think I made the cut by much.

cootersgarage said...

Dude. I was one of the fellas from Birmingham (the old older one) who "helped" with the keg Friday night. What a brutal Sunday indeed. I managed to finish the 80 (9:37) but only with the help of multiple gears. The other 3 Birmingham guys who started got 6th (ss80) 7th (ss80 rigid)and dnf (ss80 rigid). It was great meeting you guys. Perhaps we'll see you next year? btw: The tornado that ripped through Mena started up just across the road at The Fish Net Restaurant! The cabins made it through just fine though. Crazy.