Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tribble Mill 6 Hour

This morning I got up early for the Chainbuster 6 Hour at Tribble Mill. Not as early as last weekend, but early enough. I'd been up kind of late the night before, reading, of all things. I paid $1.50 for the collected works of Jules Verne last year and every single one of them is good! "Michael Strogoff, The Courier of the Czar" had my attention last night until the wee hours. I just couldn't put it down. I'm still going with the theory that Thursday night's sleep is more operative though, and I did sleep well Thursday night.

While running around in Dahlonega getting things ready for the Fool's Gold, I got rear-ended and my Outback is now in the shop. In the mean time I've got this little rental Corrolla. I have to cram bike in the trunk, but it's getting the job done, so I'm not complaining.

 Junk in the Trunk

I grabbed some breakfast at Waffle House.


Two orders scrambled well, dry toast, hold the grits.

Even with the Waffle House stop, I got to Tribble Mill with plenty of time to register and set up. It wasn't a perfect set up though. I didn't realize how short I was on on Clif Blocks until last night and with no Clif-Block-source available prior to the race, I went with Zingers instead.

 Ride Fuel

They work well as pre-ride fuel, perhaps they would work all right during the ride as well.

Running around in the pits I ran into a million friends. Too many to name them all. One specific guy though, that I never expected to see, was Mark Donaghy, up from Florida. He rides mountain bikes but he's mainly a triathlete. I met him at last year's TNGA. It was so random, but great to see and talk to him again. He was riding with a 6-hour team. It later occurred to me that he must have come up to spend a few days riding, not just for the one race, but I kept forgetting to ask him about it.

I ended up pitting with Eddie and Nam...

 Topeak Zone

I will assert once again, that if I take a photo of you, there is a 50/50 chance that your face will be totally obscured in the photo.

They were doing the race because otherwise they'd have ended up sitting around the house, maybe getting out on the road for an hour, getting tired of the heat, going back home and sitting around the house some more, tempted by the glorious beer surrounding them.

I was still feeling the Fool's Gold, still feeling sick from some weird cold my family had all week and I was short on both sleep and mid-week miles. It was necessary to assess the situation with a little warm up so I spun a couple of laps around the paved trail and some of the park roads.

Down by the lake, there were geese all over the place.


Geese are proud and petulant. "We do not move for you." I had to creep by to keep from running them over.

The warm up revealed what I thought it would. I felt OK. Not great. The first lap would hurt but then it ought to be all right. If I was still feeling it at the end of the first lap, it would be a long day.

The pre-race meeting was held on time and Kenny gave us the run-down.


I did a last minute check. It looked like everything was good to go.

 Ready to Go

I say "looked" ready because at a glance everything looked fine, and I kept telling myself that, but deep down I knew better. My bike's nickname is The Rolling Junk Show and it was living right up to that name today. The spring in the right pedal has so much play in it that my foot regularly pops out at inopportune times. I even have new pedals, but I keep failing to change them and keep validating it by telling myself I'm just getting as many miles as possible out of these. That seat is the old seat from my road bike from last year that I replaced with an Aspide. I'd chucked it on the floor of the garage and just discovered it again this past Wednesday. My real seat got busted at the end of the Fool's Gold and I'd replaced it last night with the old junker. Rolling Junk Show.

We lined up in a field and then stood there for like 10 minutes. It started getting hot but it was nothing compared to the furnace I'd been exposed to in Dallas. I could hack it. We were lined up between to stakes that had to be 100 yards apart so the field was a million bikes wide but only 5 or 6 deep. I'd bet from the side we looked a bit like a medieval army lined up on the battlefield. Kenny wisely got about 100 yards away before calling the start. It seemed a little strange at first but later I realized that if he'd been closer he might not have had time to get out of the way.

Lap 1 was pretty standard. It was a little fast and tough on the lungs but I felt OK. Not strong but OK.

The trail attacked me almost immediately though. I picked up a stick in my rear derailleur. Fortunately it was barely in there and I was able to reach back with my foot and deftly lift it out of the way.

After the initial climb there were miles of twisty singletrack. There were a few climbs but nothing serious. There was however, no possibility of passing anyone for miles and miles. The trail was so narrow and we were going so fast, it just wasn't a possibility. I think I lucked out and got around one guy but that was it. Mark Johnson got past me. I had trouble on one climb and Eric Watson got ahead of me there. I was pretty sure I couldn't catch Mark but I had hopes of catching Eric.

My foot kept popping out of the pedal and I thought it was going to be a major problem but my brain adjusted somehow and after the first 5 or 6 times in a row it rarely happened again.

Stuck in traffic, I just spun out the lap, keeping Eric in sight but never gaining on him.

In the pits I ate some salt capsules but I was still feeling full from breakfast and I still had half a bottle left so I passed on the Zingers and didn't tank up.

At the start of lap 2, Watson was 2 riders ahead of me coming out of the pits. I spent the entire lap trying to get around the rider in front of me but he was just moving too fast.

Sometimes he'd get ahead, I'd close it down, start looking for a place to pass and then trail would attack me. The first time I got a stick in my front derailleur of all places and had to stop to dislodge it.

The next time I took the right hand line out of the creek crossing and lo, a downed tree lay directly ahead at neck height. I had to duck as hard as possible, sliding back off the seat in the process and racking my dudes so badly that both of my legs went completely numb like they were asleep. The pain was bearable. The worst part was having to just sit and wait for my legs to respond to my brain again.

To add insult to injury, someone had run through one of the course marking ribbons and I took a wrong turn for about 200 yards before realizing that the trail there didn't look like it had been ridden for weeks.

Watson was long gone. I'd lost the progress I'd made on other riders. Such is bike racing.

My stomach hurt. I didn't feel like I could possibly swallow the salt capsules so I didn't even try. I did manage to force down half a Zinger though. My bottles had been sitting in direct sun and the contents were scalding. Odd that I've never had that happen before. It was manageable. Onward.

All I remember of lap 3 is that I still felt as good as on Lap 2, I sparred with a guy on a green bike the whole time and my rear derailleur was acting up so I ended up fiddling with the adjuster for most of the lap until I finally got it working again. The cable might be fraying.

Rolling Junk Show.

I felt full enough to leave the Zingers alone but I felt like I could choke down some salt so I choked down some salt with a scalding blast from another hot water bottle.

On lap 4 I finally started getting tired. The trail was becoming very anonymous. I recognized the climbs but the flats and downhills almost all looked the same. I tried to get some recovery but it wasn't easy. I spent most of that lap alone.

Tim had apparently showed up to say hi and took this photo near the end of the lap.

 Tim's Photo of Me

It's funny though. I remember somebody taking the photo because I was kind-of licking my lips and thought that it would end up looking goofy. I didn't recognize Tim though, and ironically he didn't recognize me either. He was just taking photos of everyone coming through. He only realized later when he looked back through them.

Back at the pits I was incredibly sick at my stomach. It was impossible to swallow anything solid.

My heart sunk when I saw 3:34 on the clock. I usually get in 5 laps in these things. I was looking forward to only having one more but it looked like there would be two.

On the upside, I'd run into Mark Donaghy and ridden with him for the last mile or so and for some odd reason Marc Hirsch had showed up and I saw him passing through the pits.

On the downside, I'd inadvertently left the bottle I grabbed closed all day and in the heat, the sugar in the gatorade had fermented somewhat. It had become... Gatorwine.

Lap 5 was the worst of all time. I talked to Mark at the beginning but after getting past him, I mostly rode alone. A few riders passed me but that was all. Everything hurt. I struggled on every climb. The feeling was familiar. I'd decoded it last week at Blankets. I needed a large dose of clean cool water.

Did they even have water in the neutral support area? I wasn't sure. Hopefully they would.

Hey, wait. My camelback... I'd packed my gear into my camelback the night before just to make it easier to carry and earlier that day I'd realized it was still full of water when I'd dropped it into my chair, the bite valve had gotten stuck open and everything got soaked. Yes. I had water of my own, and the camelback was under my chair so it would have stayed cool. I drank and drank.

It calmed my stomach a bit and I was able to eat.

On the way out I saw Hirsch at the transition area, a-jawin' with Eddie.

On lap 6, Eirc Watson passed me immediately. I assumed he was lapping me. David Sagat passed a few second later and he was, in fact, lapping me.

About 5 minutes in I started feeling great. The water had done the trick. I wished I'd realized that after lap 4 instead of 5. I managed to catch and drop a few guys I'd been flip-flopping with all day. My lap time was over 5 minutes faster than the previous lap but it wasn't nearly enough to leave me with time for another lap.

Almost immediately upon finishing, I ran into Zach and Jessica whom I'd met and shared a tent with at Blankets a few weeks back. I guess this race format agrees with Zach. They must have taken off right away though. I never saw them again. Hirsch was gone too. So was Tim.

I haven't had any cramping problems this year. Today was no different, despite eating less and getting less salt than usual. In the past, I've always battled cramps, and adding salt helped, but not to the extent that I'd hoped. Eventually I figured it must just be muscle fatigue and last winter I made a specific effort to build some strength by lugging around a 12 to 15 pound camelback on every ride. I think it did the trick.

I'd had an upset stomach all day. The combination of illness, heat, sugary food, hot gatorade, gatorwine and exertion conspired to sicken me. But Bill Riddle had me beat hands down. He'd had oranges with breakfast, which he knows make him sick, but he ate them anyway and in lap 4 he began throwing up uncontrollably. Not that "I've worked too hard" reflux, but full on gastro-evacuation. He crawled back in, couldn't hold down gatorade but was eventually able to hold down water. He was just starting to feel better when I talked to him. Tough break. Don't eat oranges Bill.

Another guy I didn't expect to see just happened to pit next to me, as he has, equally accidentally, in the past. Chris Brown!

"Smile Chris!"

 Chris Brown

If I take a photo of you and your face is in it, there's a 50/50 chance you won't be ready and it'll look really amazing.

He had 3 more hours left to ride. No way you're getting me to do that. 6 hours on a 10 mile loop is quite enough for me.

All tolled, I got 8th. Sounds great right? No. That's out of 13. Not terrible though. I was discouraged to find out that Watson had come in 7th. He hadn't lapped me. I'd gotten ahead of him somewhere and he just re-passed me at the start of lap 6. Darn!

Eddie and Nam won their class. I'm not sure about anyone else. Matt and Becky Kicklighter had 3 more hours too but I think they were in first when I left.

Heading into this race, I didn't expect to do well. I was coming back from illness, my bike was becoming junk, I was still feeling the Fool's Gold, and so on. I could say that I did it because I'm committed to the series, which I am, or that I was challenging myself to face adversity, which I was, but while those rationales did factor into the decision I think some odd form of cycling addiction played a larger role. I felt compelled to do it. It's weird. I've got to think about it.

It was a hard day but I got some valuable insight so it was worth doing. A bad day, but the good kind of bad day.

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