Monday, September 26, 2011

Jackrabbit 6 Hour

Jackrabbit is probably my favorite trail to race on. It's long and fast and swoopy. It's not especially technical overall but there are a few technical sections. There's actually quite a lot of climbing, but you just roll right through it. There's only one climb that you have to really sit back on and you're rewarded with a beautiful view at the top. As one might expect, I'd been looking forward to the race for weeks.

My bike was even working reasonably well. I'd finally replaced my busted pedals, though that operation was a little anticlimactic. The new ones work great but they're noticeably heavier than the old, despite just being 2011 versions of the same pedals. I'd fixed the slipping rear derailleur cable last weekend too. The Rolling Junk show was substantially less junky than usual and again, as one might expect, I was looking forward to riding it.

I didn't get as much mid-week riding as I wanted, but I did get plenty of sleep...

My Outback was back from the shop so no more chucking the bike in the trunk of the rental...

Tim texted me Thursday night, wanting to carpool, so I'd even have good company on the way up and back...

 Bikes on the Roof

Glory was inevitable.

For some reason, Google wanted me to go through Ellijay and Blue Ridge to get to Hiawassee. I guess you can go that way but it seemed crazy so we went through Helen instead.

We stopped at Chik-fil-a in Dawsonville for a chicken biscuit and again at McDonalds in Hiawassee to go to the bathroom. At McDonalds we got the most hateful staredown of all time through the window from some older guy in McDonalds. And it wasn't just me misreading the guy, ask Tim. I should have taken a photo. I know the look and I've heard the words that go with it a dozen times, all over North Georgia: "God damned bikers." Actually, who knows, he could have been pissed that his coffee was bad or his arthritis was acting up or any number of things. It's just... when you've seen that exact look and heard that exact phrase follow it, over and over, it's hard to imagine it meaning anything else. I might just need to update my imagination though. I hope that's the case.

We got to Jackrabbit at 8 AM. Technically the sun was up but you couldn't really see it.

 Foggy Mountains

The race started at 10 so we had plenty of time to get set up. We'd parked right across from the South Georgia Cycling boys and pitted with them. The line was short at registration. I was set up, kitted up and ready to roll at about 8:45. Most of the riders hadn't even arrived yet.

I rode around for a while, hoping to make up for the lack of mid-week activity with a long warmup. Tim had rebuilt his entire bike the night before and needed to shake it down so he didn't screw around either.

Tim, not screwing around:


When I got back it seemed like there were twice as many tents in the pits. Some tough competition had arrived. Josh Fix and David Sagat were guaranteed to take the top two spots. Mark Johnson was likely to crush me again. Chris Brown showed up too. I keep being surprised to see him, but he's ridden most of the series and most of last year's too, so I guess I shouldn't be. He was doing the 9 hour though so I didn't have to worry about him. Still, there were so many strong riders rolling around. Perhaps glory wasn't as inevitable as I'd been thinking earlier.

I ran into Matt Kicklighter and he told me all about the Ironman he and Becky had signed up for. It's conceivable that I have the cardio for something like that, but if I didn't drown on the swim, my toenails would fall off on the run. I'll have to leave that to them for now.



I was legitimately surprised to see her. I think the last time I saw her was at one of these things last year and before that was the year before, randomly at Oak Mountain. She's great, I miss riding with her. She's also absurdly fast. I need to email her and see if she wants to ride some Georgia trails this winter.

We lined up down the road just like last year and just like last year, the start was incredibly fast. We had a half mile or so of road to spread everyone out. The course was backwards from last year, I knew there wouldn't be any tough climbing for a while, I figured I'd be bound up in traffic as soon as we hit the singletrack, so I buried myself on the road to get up to the front.

Lap 1:

Yep, flattish trail for a while. I was bound up in traffic but we were fighter-jetting through the woods at incredible speeds. I can't overstate how fun these trails are at race pace, following other fast riders. A hollywood-style fighter jet dogfight is the only worthy analogy. You're just flying, banking hard, climbing and diving and pushing the envelope to hold on to the rider ahead of you. If I ever get to where I can't do it any more, it's the kind of thing I'm going to remember fondly.

I got pretty thirsty before there was a chance to drink, downed about a third of my bottle right there, fumbled trying to put it back in the cage and dropped it.

Not a minute later I inhaled a bug and it would have really been great to have something to drink after coughing it back up.

I got by 5 or 6 riders but about 2/3rds of the way around I had to pee so badly that I just had to stop and go. I finished two seconds to late to get out ahead of the chase group and about 20 guys rode right past me. I barely caught half of them by the end of the lap.

The lap was 10.1 miles, substantially longer than every other course this year, but it went by so fast, I could tell it would be a 7 lap day, even without looking at the clock.

In the pits, I grabbed a new bottle and some Clif Blocks. I was trying something new. A few races back, at Blankets, I realized I didn't need as much salt as I'd been taking. I confirmed this at Tribble Mill by just taking less. For Jackrabbit, I went with the margarita flavored Clif Blocks, which have a bunch of salt in them and passed on the Enduralytes entirely. Would it work? No idea, but I gave it a try.

Lap 2:

My bottle was still lying there just off trail. I planned on picking it up during a later lap when I was moving slow anyway.

I still had energy for days but ended up riding almost entirely by myself that lap.

The chamois in my club kit has this high-tech gel inner layer but it has a fatal flaw. I'm sure it's fine if you only ride on the road, but off-road you gerch around so much, the gel tears and randomly folds back on itself. If you put it in the wash, it straightens itself out and it only does the weird fold-over thing every 3 rides or so. My other club bib is at the shop, back from being warrantied for the same issue. I have a third one but the club bib fits so well that I almost hate riding the third one any more. I gambled, rode the club bib and lost. During the second lap it folded over and no amount of picking at it did anything. The padding on my right butt was now double-thick. For the duration of lap two it was uncomfortable but it didn't affect the ride too much.

In fact, I kept forgetting that I was racing altogether and probably made some minor strategic errors; riding a skinny, pushing hard on a downhill or two, and so forth. I didn't care though, it was so much fun. There was a guy out there taking photos and I'm sure I have a big grin on my face in all of them.

Lap 3:

I still had crazy energy for lap 3. My bottle was still there. Travis Fowler got on my wheel early in the lap and just sat on. He's another one of those murderously strong riders, but fortunately he was doing the 9 hour and was happy to just sit on. Nothing notable happened during that lap except that the extra pressure from the double-thick chamois began to hurt and burn and there was no position that didn't hurt other than standing.

Lap 4:

My stray bottle was gone. Maybe someone picked it up.

I still had energy but my legs needed a little rest so I sat up for the first half of the lap.

Travis was still on my wheel. Carebear passed me with authority. He's really fast this year. About half way around there's a tough, technical climb, followed by a tricky, technical descent. I managed to catch back up on the downhill and sit on his wheel for most of the rest of the lap. There's some magic that happens when you're riding with someone else and it's not drafting. Drafting doesn't matter much in the woods. At least that's what I've always believed. Maybe it is drafting though. I don't know. All I know is that I couldn't have dropped Travis on my own but the two of us pulled away easily. It seemed like Carebear was fading but he's crafty and I didn't trust it. He might have been resting up, knowing there's no good place for me to pass. He might have been goading me into an attack and then counter so hard that I'd give up the chase outright. You've got to worry about that kind of thing with him. He's crafty.

I was worried but it was moot because, dangit, I had to pee again. Eventually it was so bad that I just had to stop. I had to stop and pee no fewer than 4 times during this race. It was terrible. What the heck?

Travis passed me. I recaught him later but Mark was gone for good.

I didn't notice my right butt pain while riding with Mark but it came right back when I was by myself again.

Lap 5:

My bottle was still gone, I didn't just miss it last time. I still had ridiculous energy and my legs felt great from that little rest I'd gotten on the last lap. A train of riders were walking the steep climb. Four of them let me by but the fifth didn't want to. I asked him twice and finally he just stopped and looked at me with contempt. I sneaked by but it wasn't the most courteous pass.

The right butt pain became excruciating.

Travis caught me again.

Lap 6:

I'd mixed a couple of my bottles a little weaker than the others and it caught up to me on Lap 6. I had a rough time of the first few miles but recovered completely before the tough climb.

I saw a big Black King Snake on that climb too. It was thinking about crossing the trail but drew back suddenly and turned back uphill when it saw me coming. At first I thought it was an Eastern King but it lacked the distinctive pattern. It definitely wasn't a rat snake or a black racer, it's head melded too cleanly into its body to be one of them and it had a dotty margin between the black of it's upper body and white of it's belly. It's funny, I saw a black rat snake on that same section of trail last year but it went for it rather than turning back and I had to do a trackstand to let it by.

I'd gotten ahead of Travis in the pits but he caught me and I never saw him again.

The right butt pain had apparently hit some maximum level and transitioned into numbness. If I slapped and kneaded it, the pain would return but then it would go numb again in a minute or two.

Lap 7:

I had just over an hour left, it had taken me less than an hour to ride lap 6 and I felt way better than I did starting lap 6. No problem. Unless something broke, I had plenty of time.

I put it down as hard as I could and caught a dozen or more riders but I don't think any of them were in my class.


The SGC crew was already done and I kicked back with them for a while.

 Bill and Josh  Mitch

Tim came off the course a few minutes after me.

I ended up with 10th. Out of 13. Yeah. The craziest part is that I probably rode the race of my life. If I hadn't had to pee and hadn't had such a rough 6th lap, I might have gotten one place better. The rest of the field was just that good.

Bill Riddle said that he was in a train of riders and the leader got sideswiped by a deer. I see deer all the time. At most trails, they are so habituated to bikes, they have zero fear and I've had to wait for them to cross the trail before. I guess it was just a matter of time before somebody got whacked. Crazy.

Everybody I know did well.

Clydesdale: Mark D in 2nd and Bill Riddle in 1st...

 Mark 2nd Bill 1st Clydesdale

Single Speed: Tim Winters in 2nd...

 Tim 2nd SS

Women: Ursula in 3rd...

 Ursula 3rd

Expert: Josh Fix in 1st and David Sagat in 2nd...

 Josh 1st David 2nd Expert

Mitch even got 5th in beginner. Mark Johnson beat me by 2 places in expert.

Me and Tim grabbed some Mexican food at El Cabana in Helen. I called Clark but he wasn't around.

We took the scenic route home, through Gainesville. It was Norma's birthday so we stopped by for an hour or so to eat some cake and listen to some stories. They'd recently ridden the TNGA route from west to east and they'd had all kinds of adventures. She got a new Subaru Forester too and Johnny's going to sell a couple of cars, his motorcycle and a couple of bikes to buy another one for himself. Niiice.

Ok, so the margarita Clif Blocks worked well. Good show there. My bib needs some surgery though. I'm going to rip the gel out of my chamois here in the next day or so. Hopefully I can just ride it like that. We'll see. I also realized that I need to put my seat further back and maybe get a longer stem and drop it a little bit too. My legs or lungs are usually the limiting factors but this time it was my lower back and neck/upper-back region. They were tired and sore and constantly needed to be stretched out. I've noticed the same thing on a few long rides recently. On my road bike, my posture is more stretched out and I don't get it at all.

The next race in the series is at Oak Mountain. That should be a heck of a ride too, but I'm not sure if I'll be doing it or not. The Cross Florida Independent Time Trial is the same weekend and it is oh-so enticing. It follows much of the same route as the Huracan 300 and I have unfinished business on that route. I'll have to look at the series points when they're posted and go from there. I doubt I can place, but if I can, it might be worth it to ride Oak Mountain.

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