Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jackrabbit - Chain Buster Finale

I've been doing well in the Chain Buster series. As of this morning, I was in third (in Sport), I think, with precious few points between the top three of us. Conceivably, I could win the series. On the other hand, I could fail so miserably as to get kicked down off of the podium. The night before, you'd think I'd be nervous, but really, I was just excited to find out how it would go down.

The finale was at Jackrabbit, just over the border in North Carolina. I rode there a few months back. IMBA trails. Insanely fast and flowy. If nothing else, it would be fun.

At 5AM my alarm clock started screaming at me, but I wasn't having it. Finally, around 5:45 I gave in. All my stuff was packed last night. I basically just jumped in the truck and headed for the mountains.

The mountains:

 Foggy Mountains

It was foggy, and cold, or at least colder than it has been. 48 at my house - not so good. 58 in Helen - all right, that's better. Oh no, 43 again on the other side of Unicoi Gap. I expected that biting chill when I got out of my truck, but oddly though, it didn't feel that cold. I guess those mornings with the kids at the bus stop have been paying off.

I usually get to these things early so I can get a close parking spot and register quickly. But then sit around doing nothing until people I know start arriving like an hour and a half later. Today I had a plan to mitigate my loneliness. Jackrabbit runs around on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Chatuge, the lake runs right up to the parking lot and the last time I was there I saw lots of weeds, branches and other cover in the water. As fate would have it, the fish forecast showed 8AM as almost "excellent". I would set up, register, catch a few lunkers, then race. How could it go wrong?

Well, here's one way...

 No Lake

Oh boy, no lake. I forget that if a lake is just a reservoir, sometimes they drain it. Scratch that plan.

On the upside, some of my friends were there early, including some folks I almost never see. Chris Brown!

 Chris Brown

I can't even remember the last time I saw him. I think it was ORAMM, some unknown number of years ago.

Addictive's Matt and Cody...

 Matt and Cody

Tim Winters... (great photo eh?)

 Tim Winters

Michele Z and soon-to-be-first-time-father Brandon Woods...

 Michele and Brandon

Congratulations Brandon.

Bill and Josh from GSC showed up too. I've got lots of photos of them. Actually lots of other folks I know were there too. It's cool, if you do enough races, you meet a lot of people.

Kenny, the man that makes it all happen...


The race was dedicated to the memory of T.J. Patillo who rode in the series, but was recently killed in an accident while riding his road bike. They had a raffle (which for some reason, Tim won like 3 different items from) and a silent auction, and also just donated some of the proceeds to his family. There was also a moment of silence during the pre-ride meeting. It was sad, but very touching.

The race started up the road a ways from the trailhead. Go!

We tore down the road like lightning. Like I've never seen. I was spun out in seconds and went into the woods at the front of the second group of riders. Less than a mile in I was hurting and getting a stitch. I let a rider by, then another. It would be a long day.

Or would it? A mile later I was back on that rider, descending and starting to feel really good. I sat on the guy ahead of me, but not so much by choice. You can ride so unbelievably fast at Jackrabbit that it's just dangerous to try to pass. The trail is true singletrack, with very few wide spots, and they're gone in a split second. If you tried to pass and got it wrong, you'd both go down and take out the guy behind you, with trees flying by at unconscionable speeds. It wasn't worth even considering. Bottom line, if the rider ahead was even remotely fast, you couldn't get by him. Twice I asked for a pass and, realizing the futility, formally withdrew my request. The group ahead of us pulled away. There was no catching them on that lap. Who knew the holeshot would be so important in a 6 hour race. As it turned out, there was no hope of me catching them anyway. I had to pee super bad and eventually just had to pull off and do it. As the next 10 riders passed me, I took stock of them. Chris Brown, Josh Fix, Tim Winters, all faster than me, all in that group. I had been in an unsustainable position as it was. Before long I was back on the rider that I was behind before.

Lap two was less hectic, but eventually I got stuck behind a rider for the rest of the lap. On lap two I also realized why I'd had such a hard time off the start. You start climbing immediately, barely get a break for a mile and a half, and it's not shallow. I realized how punctuated the route was: long steep climb, an infinity of warp speed rollers, ridiculously steep climb, another infinity of warp speed rollers, pit.

I pushed hard through the first 3 laps. On lap 3 I ran into a hunter, riding a rigid, but non-walmart bike, with a gun mounted on his handlebars. He was friendly. I'd heard of some hunters using bikes to access hunting sites, but never seen it until today. Lap 3 was weird though, except for that hunter, I saw only one other rider, at the very end.

The first three laps were fun.

Lap 4 and 5 ran together. I didn't kill it so hard for those laps. I still passed some folks though. I do remember, on lap 5, while granny gearing up the super steep climb, a black rat snake crossed the trail in front of me. I've seen a lot of those lately, like they've eaten all the other snakes or something. Going so slowly, I instinctively stopped to let it cross. A rider tried to come around me and I was all "wait.... snake" and he did. I guess we could have stepped over it. I think in the back of my mind I wanted a break and it was a good excuse. The rider did get by me, then a few minutes later slid out on a tricky, off camber, right hander. Actually, three different riders slid out there in front of me at various times during the race. It was a sketchy turn.

Those laps were about half-fun and half-work.

Lap 6, I made an effort to rest up, but I didn't let any solo sport riders pass me.

Vonnie showed up before my last lap for some moral support. He wasn't riding, but he and some of the GSC guys and gals were up in the mountains on vacation.

Lap 7, I pushed really hard up the initial climb, kept a competent pace up the super steep one and then pushed as hard as possible to the end. It hurt, but it felt good to be able to do it.

At some point, I'm not exactly sure when, something broke. Or at least I think something did. I heard a Pchowww! sound and felt the bike shudder, but then nothing else happened. I still haven't figured out what it was. Must not be that important, or maybe it was just a weird rock that I rode over. At some other point, something hit me in the arm so hard that it cut me. It felt like somebody threw a rock at me, but there was nobody there. Maybe a clump of acorns fell out of a tree. Maybe? It was weird.

I was hungry for the first few laps and had to eat more Clif Blocks than usual. I drank as much as I usually do, but with the unusually cool weather, I didn't sweat as much and had to stop and pee 4 times. 4 times!!!! I never let more than 1 rider by though, and always re-caught him, but still. Jeez.

I ended up in 2nd.

 Sport Podium

The 3rd place rider was only a minute back. After seeing his jersey, I think I passed him during my last lap. I never had any idea where I was or who was ahead of me. That's as close as it gets. The first place guy must have gotten out ahead of me from the start.

Bill Riddle pulled down first in Clydesdale.

 Clydesdale Podium

Josh Fix got 2nd in Expert.

 Expert Podium

Tim Winters got 4th or something, but took 2nd overall for the series.

 Expert Series Podium

In my class, I won the series.


The top three of us were only separated by one point each. This race was operative.

I still can't believe it. I've done a hundred cross country races, team 12's, team 24's, dozens of marathon races, dozens of "epics", Firewaters, ORAMM's, Fool's Golds and a Trans North Georgia, but I have not, until today, gotten 3 top 3's or 5 top 5's in a series, nor have I gotten a top 3 overall in a series. As such, per USA Cycling rules at least, I've been perpetually relegated to Sport. Yeah, these races aren't sanctioned by USA Cycling rules, technically I can call myself whatever I want, but every Expert I know got that way by those rules, so I've gone by them too. Today, I officially cat myself up to Expert. And it only took 11 years.

I figure I'd better savor this for a while, I think it's going to be a long time before I stand on another podium. Also, somehow, I managed to win a series without winning a race in the series. That's got to be a rarity.

I celebrated in Helen, at North Georgia Barbecue. They had oppressive and condescending messages written all over the place but I figured it must be good if they claim to represent all of North Georgia.

 Rib Plate

It was. I will eat there again.


  1. Congratulations again on your Chainbuster performance this year! I love your write-ups, you really do a great job capturing the moment in them.

    You know, I had no idea how those classes were established - I've never raced in any "XC" sanctioned series, I've only done the epics & 12/24s but I know what I'm doing so I self-classified myself as an Expert... maybe that was a mistake! Oh well, I better keep buying raffle tickets if I want to keep going home with anything...

    For what it's worth, I only stepped on the podium once this year - for a third place finish - and I still placed 2nd in the points series. The system is biased toward those that support the series.

    Now, the one thing I'm dying to know, is what you mean by "oppressive & condescending" messages written...where? Were the notes from patrons or the establishment??

  2. The notes were from the establishment. On the door was something like "If you come in this restaurant and we can see your underwear, you will not be served." Ok, I'll give them that one. And there were like 5 rules for what kind of checks they take. Ok, maybe that one too. But the actual language they used was condescending, I wish I remember exactly what it was. They also had a rule posted about requiring ID with a credit card and again, the language was funny. On the trash cans outside there was something like "In case you're too stupid to know, don't throw away the trays" or something like that. Something about being too stupid. There were more that I can't remember. They didn't have any rules that any other establishment wouldn't have, but they wrote them all over the place in derisive language.

  3. what a great race and series Dave, congratulations!!