Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unicoi 6 Hour

Today was the Dirty Spokes 6 hour at Unicoi State Park.

 Unicoi Sigh

Unicoi was the last race in the series, and it wasn't inconceivable that I could snag 5th place overall.

Upon setting foot on pit row, I was greeted by Tim, the race director, by name. Tim is a great race director, and just a great guy in general. It's the little things, like knowing a 10th place sport rider by name, and taking the time to say hi. But, it's also the big things, like getting results up quickly, responding to issues, and generally running a good show, and series.

I set my chair down next to the Addictive Cycles tent and got all my stuff ready. New to my goodie bag: salt and power bars. The salt staved off the cramps at the FM24 and with all of the climbing at Unicoi, I'd probably need protein, not just carbs.

 My Stuff

Lots of friends were hanging around. The TNGA Crew:

 YMHA Crew

The Middle South Georgia Boys:

 Middle Georgia Boys

(I kept calling them the Middle Georgia Boys, but their team is South Georgia Racing and they're from Albany, except Clark, who now lives near Helen)



This race marks Jason Milliron's return after a devastating non-bike-related injury earlier this year.

There were a also dozen other folks I failed to photo including Mike Reardon who I haven't seen in years, and Simon, Scottish John, Matt and Michelle of FM24 fame. Matt and Michelle were doing the 12 hour coed thing.

I took a quick spin around the park to warm up.

Smith Creek:

 Smith creek 1

 Smith creek 2

Apparently a really good trout stream. Some fishermen were out there before the race, hauling em in.

Unicoi Lake...

 Unicoi Lake

...and the dam that produces it.

 Unicoi Lake Dam

Unicoi Lodge.

 Unicoi Lodge

After warming up I did some stretching. At least one of my knees usually starts hurting about 3 hours into a ride, under the kneecap, way up inside. Maybe tight muscles hold things in tension when they should be relaxed. Maybe stretching will fix that. Only one way to find out.


Lap 1 was the usual traffic jam. My impression last week was that there weren't any long climbs, only a bunch of steep ones. But, it turns out that after a couple of not-too-long climbs, there are 3 long ones, and the second and third have very steep sections. I sketched on one of them when the guy ahead of me got stalled out, but otherwise I was able to ride them all day.

I'm not a strong climber. Norma and Johnny are, and both passed me on the first lap. Usually they pass me in lap 4 or 5. That's how much climbing there was. 2300 feet per lap, by my calculations.

Lap 2 was just rolling, feeling good.

Before lap 3 I hit the salt and half a power bar, but the twinges started setting in anyway. I probably should have started on the salt earlier. Time for some cramp management. Speaking of cramps, I passed Steve Julain on lap 3. We rode together for a while, but after a mile or so, the cramps started getting to him. He fell back, and every few minutes he'd scream. I felt sorry for him, but his howling was so loud and awesome, I couldn't help laughing. Apparently though, my laughter counted as a withdrawal from the Karma bank. I'd drained that account at the FM24 and only put a few bucks back in at the end. It would seem that I was broke again. Five minutes later I crashed.

Not just any crash. My front wheel washed in some loose dirt at the bottom of a hill and threw me into a stand of young pines. Well, most of them were young, one was like 8 inches in diameter. I slammed my left thigh and ribs into the tree, drug my right knee and shin across my bars, flipped over and came to rest several feet off the ground on a bed of bent-over saplings. It took a while to get out and even longer for the shock to wear off. My left calf cramped so hard I was worried that I might have broken and/or dislocated something. But, no, I was fine. Hurt, yes, but not injured. I could still ride. My bike was virtually untrashed as well. Virtually. I did break one of my seat rails. One of my titanium seat rails. Snapped it right in two. But I could sit on my left butt. I was still in shock, but I actually spoke out loud: "You can manage this. Go." And like magic, one pedal stroke and I snapped out of it. I was back in the race. Only 4 riders has passed me and I knew 2 of them weren't in my class.

At neutral support, Cody from Addictive gave me a new saddle. Again, only a few riders passed me while I pitted. I'd been riding with Milliron most of the day, but he got out ahead of me. I made it my mission to catch him within the lap.

Lap 4, the cramps were gone but I had no power. The salt was working. I think I was still a little shocked. I felt like I had energy but I couldn't apply it to the pedals. I did catch Milliron though.

Lap 5, I had power again, at least as much power as I usually have at that point. Me and J rode together for most of the lap, but I got away from him at the end.

When I came in, I had 45 minutes left, but there's no way I could turn a lap in that time. All done.

I was dazed and cuold not bend over easily. Tim noticed this and took off my RFID tag so I wouldn't have to. The little things. It was funny though, even though he told me what he was doing, I wasn't sure what he was doing until he started to do it. Dazed.

I rode around a bit to cool off my legs and ran into Travis, his girlfriend, and his dog. They'd come by to say hi and spectate a little. A good surprise. I really didn't expect to see him and it was cool to meet his girl.

Time to get clean. I considered bathing in the creek, but seeing as it's such a stellar trout stream, it just didn't seem right. Not that the amount of dirt on me would matter, but maybe I'd start a trend. No, not in the creek. Fortunately there was a spigot at the edge of the field. Ahhh, clean.

I came in 9th. You can see my crash and it's effect, by looking at my lap times. The first 2 were like 57 minutes and 54 minutes and then 1:09, 1:07, 1:04, or something like that. Ugh. And, I came in 6th in the series. Just my luck, missed it by 1. Though actually I don't know if they even went 5 deep.

I ran around saying goodbye to everyone. While hanging out with the Middle Georgia Boys, Vonnie's wife and amazingly cute 3 year old daughter came by. It was cool to meet them too. We laughed about my inability to spell his name correctly after Mt. Mitchell.

The 12 hour riders were still turning laps when I took off.

Even though there are hundreds of people around, racing can be a lonely thing. You ride by them, but you're in your little world and they're in theirs.

 Pit Row

One good thing today... It rained all night and a band of weather was heading our way all day, but it rained itself out before it ever got to us. I kept waiting for the sky to open up, but the most I ever felt was a few drops.

On the down side...

The carnage:

 Slam 2

Can't make it out too well in this pic. It will look a lot more awesome tomorrow. My leg has a similar wound.

The wreckage:


Well, at least now I have an excuse to buy a lighter seat.

Unicoi was the last Dirty Spokes event ever. Next year Chain Busters will be taking over the series. I'll miss Tim, but the guy that runs Chain Busters seems like a good guy too. Either way, I'll be back next year. For now, it'll be winter soon and I'm looking forward to just riding for a while.

1 comment:

  1. Great racing with you again!

    Bummed to hear that this was the last Dirty Spokes event. Didn't know that.