Nov 2, 2008

Funny to be sitting here: 8hrs later

Two Thursdays ago I got an oil change. Now I'm 500 miles away from needing another, that's if I follow the oil industry's self promoting recommendation.

It all started when I was getting another awesome Stago massage on Wednesday when we came to the conclusion that I was leaving for NC in two days and she was going to be flying to Raleigh on the same morning. Well hell that sounded like a carpooling opportunity, so we planned for me to drop her off, and I would continue on to the 8hr October Challenge race. She had to be there by 1pm so we left reallll early. Thermos in hand, two bikes in the back and a cooler full of eats.

I was headed there to do the last race of the USA Cycling Endurance series. They like to call it the NUE series, despite everyone knowing that that is an owned and trade marked acronym for the 100 miler series. Those guys in Colorado are strangely oblivious to the obvious.

Anyways I had hoped to make it to more of these events, because they tend to get attendance from a list of riders who get their names in the cycling press a lot, and me being a competitive leech I was eager to race some of that name brand blood. Tinker Juarez was going to be there, Jeremiah Bishop, Nat Ross, Ernesto Marenchin and a fast colombian named Diego were signed up. Holy crap!, A two title National Champion, an ex Olympian, a 24hr world champion or two.

This was on like a budda's gong.

After dropping Steph off at the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh I got lost a couple of times. Called my friend Marcee, who was going to meet me at the race course and would eventually by my life saver for the weekend. She got me squared away, and ignored the tired frustration in my voice. I made it to race sight with about an hour before dark, jumped out the car, said high to Nat Ross, kitted up, and hit the trails.First thing I noticed was that I was right at home. Literally, the trails were very similar to what I ride a mile from home. Woody, rooty, tight and twisty. Throw in some cool technical features. Sort of like getting on a return flight and doing the same crossword in the airline magazine you had done on the flight out. About seven miles total with 5 being in the woods, and 2 in the open fields with 3 steep punchy climbs.

Marcee was back at the parking lot when I got there. We set up the tent and I followed her with half closed eyelids through the rain to her parents house for a home cooked meal a shower and a bed.

I got all that plus her cool parents, antiques (they had the original Krispy Kreme hand carved sign) and four dogs.

In the morning I did some final adjustments to the bikes, (I finally got both up and running), ate breakfast, and followed Marcee back to the race.

At one point interviewed my bike about the upcoming race. Then BikeRumor sat me down amongst a class of riders I didn't have much business being compared to. Olympians, National Champions, World Champions and me. We got asked questions, which I can't remember, but I think there is a video somewhere.

A rain that was on it's 18th hour stopped a couple of hours before our start, so the trail was on a new level of slippery. Every corner had a root lying across it, and each corner was slick like soapy hands holding a new Iphone. On the first lap Ross led off, Diego was there, Tinker and another local. I was on their wheel with Jeremiah on mine. I watched the guys riding in front and gathered quickly they were less than comfortable on the terrain. My goal was to go into the single track first at the start of the next lap and turn the traction control off.
Past the tents, and my pit crew, I attacked enough to get in first and Jeremiah followed me tight. Going into the North Carolina clay was tricky, but fun. Basically you have to be very comfortable letting the wheels slide over everything. The rear end of the bike just has to have the freedom to flail.

I set a nice pace, ditched the bike once, but kept it under control enough to come out of the woods with a good 40 second gap on Tinker. Jeremiah was with me, and we set a nice but not blazing pace up the climbs to the start finish line. I figured we could continue that pattern for the rest of the race. Let the others kill themselves on the climb while we floated the single track. It should be noted that the middle climb was so gooey that I choose to walk it the first 5 or 6 laps before it dried out enough to make riding it less of a drain.

By the 4th or 5th lap JB and I had about 2 minutes on everyone else, and we started to jsut enjoy the ride. We'd pass people chatting about random racing ideas, and live video game style feeds of races. It was still work, and we wore ourselves out, but in the woods you can only go so fast without crashing.

One of my favorite trail features was the option line to the step-up jump up onto the bank and over the root. JB and I started sessioning it and were soon comfortable hitting it like a freight train.

We were averaging 30-35 minute laps and Marcee was doing an excellent job as my pit crew. I got some bike changes, plenty of bottles and food, all without a hitch. As the night laps came up I was doing the math in my head and it looked like we were going to use every inch of the 8hrs of the race. One confusing thing that Jeremiah and I weren't sure of was the race cut off of 7:30. Apparently if you came to the start finish line after 7:30 you were done. We were asking people if that was the truth and it screwed with strategy. I knew Jeremiah was probably stronger on the climbs, so I was hoping to ditch him in the single track and run like mad for the finish.
Unfortunately he attacked at 7:22 and we crossed the line at about 7:28 which meant that he had a nice gap on me in the woods. I couldn't make up enough of it to the finish and after being down by as much as a minute (i think) we came across the line 12 seconds apart, after he dropped his chain on the last climb.

Oh well. It was a good race, and nail biting to the end. Thanks Marcee for the stellar pitting!
Cyclingnews article
Velonews Article