Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chehaw Fat Four

All right, time to get down to business!

The Chehaw Fat Four was this past Saturday, at The Parks at Chehaw in Albany, Georgia and as I may have mentioned before, I'd been looking forward to making the trip down for a while.

If all went well, I'd get to hang out with my boys (and girls) of South Georgia Cycling fame, maybe get to hit the Flint River Trail, and definitely get to race on some very different terrain for a change.

Again, it's not that I don't love the mountains, but riding in the mountains all year really makes me love not riding in the mountains at the end of the year.

I'd spent the day Friday, driving down, sampling some local fare at Harvest Moon, and exploring the Flint River Trail and River Walk greenway. Things were already going well when I met up with my good friend Vonnie, his lovely wife Tiffany and their extremely cute daughter Cadence who was, at the time, in the process of losing and re-growing all of her front teeth.

Vonnie was setting up his pop-up when I got ahold of him.

 Vonnie's Popup

We ran a few errands and talked to some folks camped nearby but generally took it easy and hit the sack early.

I'd brought all my camping gear but it turned out I didn't need much of it. There was an entire unused bed in the pop-up and though I tossed and turned for an hour or two, I eventually dozed off into some of the best pre-race slumber of all time.

The next morning it was warm out when we got up.

I ate a cinnamon roll, drank a bunch of water, drove over to the start and set everything up.

 Race Ready

It looked like some of my boys were actually going to be riding this year. Last year, everyone I knew was working the event, but this time both Vonnie and Steve were getting dressed and warming up. Steve was even in my class. Ha ha!

I rode around a bit to stretch the legs out.

The start/finish was the same as last year, with the crazy log barriers.

 The Start

The course itself was a little longer. Each lap was 8.1 miles and included a new section that the IMBA Trail Care Crew had put in last year.

I had something new too. New glasses.

 New Eyewear

Oh yeah, those look good.

I'd lost my last pair at a work party of all things and then kept forgetting to get new ones until the previous weekend. This would be their first ride on dirt.

It turned out that I was plenty warmed up already. Last year I'd prepared for the race by working late nights for a week in New Orleans and then riding for 5 hours the day before in Mobile. This year, I'd ridden 2 or 3 hours on the road, 3 days a week and then longer on the weekends for the previous three weeks. I guess technically I didn't do that to prepare for the race, but that is what I had done leading up to the race. I sure felt a lot better on the day of than I had last year. Would those good feelings actually translate to good performance?

I guess I'd know soon enough.

Oh yeah, also, while riding around, I saw this awesome old truck.

 Elaine's Truck

I love preserved and restored old cars and trucks. This one was especially cool because it didn't look restored exactly, but looked like maybe it had just been kept in good condition and repainted at some point. It turned out that it belonged to Elaine Mercer, and it had been her Dad's before he died. Hearing that made me like it even more.

In the pits, I ran into James Stankowitz and his NWGA Sorba crew.

 NWGA Sorba Crew

He's been putting together a strong team lately, sponsored by Super Sport, and two of his guys were in my class.

James is one of those guys that I have long admired. He's been working in the Georgia mountain bike community for so long, and he's been instrumental in so much associated with the Pinhoti Trail and the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial, and NWGA Sorba in general. It's always cool running into him. I even got to ride with him at the Dry Creek trail opening last year. This time I was lined up on two of his riders though so we were adversaries. Ha ha!

There was a riders meeting and various other formalities...

Let it begin! Let it begin!!

And it began.

We had to run to our bikes and Bill said whoever gets to their bike first gets a free bear claw. This was apparently sufficient motivation because I got to my bike first, but somehow Steve and Vonnie both got into actual woods ahead of me.

Lap 1:

Steve led. Vonnie was behind him on a singlespeed. I was third and a short train of riders hung slightly off of my wheel. I needed to get around Vonnie because he wasn't able to keep up on the long straightaways.

The NWGA rider behind me sat on and sized us up for the first mile or so, then pulled around and we never saw him again. Me, Vonnie, Steve and the guy behind me traded places for the whole lap but eventually I sat up. They seemed to be pushing too hard for too long. The pace didn't seem sustainable for any of us and I let them go, hoping they would crack or at least be forced to back way off.

The course was extremely fast. I think our first lap was like 33 minutes or so.

Lap 2:

I settled into a pace and concentrated on being smooth and efficient. I'd been trying to manhandle my way around on the first lap and that can be fun, but it's no way to race.

Case in point, there are all these little spots where the trail crosses a fire break and there are always two perfect little wheelie bumps on either side that I couldn't resist manualling, but No, No, No. Don't do that, just roll over them, Dave.

I'd been overrunning some of the sandier corners too and I got a handle on that. Everything was going well and I think my second lap was actually faster than the first, yet also much more relaxed.

Somewhere during that lap or the next, but I think it was that lap, a NWGA rider got on my wheel and I just couldn't shake him. I feared that he was the other expert on their team, and that if I let him by, I'd be kicked back to 5th.

I had to let him by though. He was just too strong.

Lap 3:

...Or so I thought. He put about 100 yards on me but then I started reeling him back in. And I could see Vonnie too. Ha ha!

Eventually I passed both of them and before too long I was pulling Steve in as well. Yeah! I was in third.

The NWGA guy and I flip-flopped once or twice but he eventually just settled in behind me.

I think it was during lap three that I passed two kids. One of them was about 11 or so, also on the NWGA team and riding solo. The other couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 and was followed by his dad.

The first kid had trouble with the one tricky hill in the whole park and ended up getting sideways in the trail ahead of me, forcing a dismount, but hey, that's bike racing, and none of the guys behind me used it as an opportunity to pass so it actually worked out well.

Lap 4/5?

These laps ran together. All I remember is settling into that awesome groove where you feel like you're flying through the woods on those Imperial speeders from Return of the Jedi and having plenty of power.

 Woolard's Photo

(Photo by Stephen Woolard)

That's me flying my Imperial Speeder there.

I brushed up against a pine tree somewhere and it scraped up my arm way more than I expected. It was one of those trees with the big, flaky bark. Not longleaf, but the same kind of bark. Shortleaf? Whatever it was, it looks all harmless, like "oh, that bark's just going to flake off when I hit it" but noooo, that bark might as well be made of thin little films of glass or something. Good god. I've brushed all kinds of trees and most make a little scuff mark, but I'm always surprised by how much damage that one does, in particular.

At some point I shot across the road onto the wrong trail for a few seconds but it didn't hurt me.

I could also see that I was closing the gap on the rider ahead of me. Ha ha! Maybe I'd come in second after all.

Oh, also I found out that the NWGA guy behind me was a sport class rider and thus no threat to me. I didn't need to drop him or I could let him by if I wanted. All I had to do was focus on catching that next guy.

Lap 6:

It took several minutes but my enfeebled brain managed to calculate that I wouldn't have time for a 7th lap.

Yeah, just try to do that math. Subtract the start of this lap from the start of the previous to determine your previous lap time. Then add that to the start time of the lap you're on to see what time that gives you, then subtract that from 2PM and see if that's less than your previous lap time. Yeah. I bet it would take me a minute to do that now, actually.

I had last lap syndrome too, where you suddenly feel better than you have for the previous two, for some reason. Woohoo!

NWGA-guy was still sitting on my wheel but we were having a great time and even chatting and stuff. It was actually a lot of fun riding with him.

We kept eating into the lead of the rider ahead of us but 2 miles out from the finish, he still had 20 seconds on us and I just couldn't close it. I put in one last hard effort but it wasn't enough and it was all I could do to drag myself in over the last quarter mile or so.

And so it was. I crossed the line in 3rd, same as last year.

My legs had been trying to cramp for much of the previous lap so I spun them out on the little road that led around the park.

When I got back I formally met the guy that I'd been riding with all day. His name was Doyle.


Really nice guy. Turns out that his girlfriend's son was the 11 year old that we'd passed too.

I was really, really, extra impressed with the kids I saw out there. Both of them rode for the full 4 hours. The 11 year old did 32 miles and the 9 year old (I'm assuming 9, maybe younger) did 24. And we're not talking Silver Comet Trail miles, that was on dirt.

Impressive sir!

I love it.

Vonnie came in moments later and literally crawled over the barriers, dragging his bike behind him. I wish I had video of that. I'm sure it's on the internet somewhere. Maybe I can find it.

The podium ceremony followed.

Vonnie got first, last and only in singlespeed.

 Vonnie - Singlespeed

It turned out that the rider directly ahead of me, that I'd been chasing all day was another sport rider. I'd been in second place the whole time!

 Expert Podium

Oh yeah! That's me on the podium there! Second place! Best ever finish in expert. Of course, that's second out of 5 or 6, not 20 but it still feels pretty good and unless someone comes down next year to knock me off, I'll take it again and feel just as good about it. Ha!

Tyler from NWGA got first and he totally deserved it. I literally never saw him after the second or third turn following his first attack.

I think James won his class. Doyle got 2nd in sport. Doyle's girlfriend's kid got 1st in his class. They all did really, really well.

It turns out that the guy that I thought was an expert but turned out to be the sport class leader had all kinds of bike problems. Both of his lock-on grips came off and his front seat bolt unscrewed itself. He ended up losing one grip entirely, putting the other in his jersey and riding out with bare handlebars and somebody had to fix his seat for him real quick. Crazy!

Turns out that he knows Todd from Reality too and he had made various jokes about Reality earlier which I wasn't really sure how to take until I learned that they were friends.

Post everything I sat around while everybody cleaned up. Me and Wild Bill's wife Lisa talked extensively about women's gymnastics. Their daughter is a gymnast, like Iz, but in level 7. She'd busted her arm doing roundoff-back-handsprings on the beam, or something, maybe double-back-handsprings. Whatever it was, it sounded dangerous and awesome. I hope she heals quickly.

She had the cutest dog I've seen in a long time with her too:


That's a long-haired Jack Russell terrier named Lamont. Yes, Lamont, from Sanford And Son. I think Bill just named it that so he could shout "Lamott!" all the time like Red Foxx did.

I'd only had Cliff Blocks and Gatorade since that cinnamon roll first thing in the morning, so me and Vonnie, Tiffany and Cadence ate at Harvest Moon again. Turns out their chicken parmesan sandwiches are just as good as their pizza. Mmmm, hmmm.

Then we went back to the park and sat around a campfire for a while with a bunch of other riders and spouses of other riders for a while, telling stories about the Huracan.

Woolard and the rest of the boys were eating at some mexican joint in town at 7 so I went over to hang out with them around then. You might think that I wouldn't be hungry after eating that chicken parmesan sandwich earlier, but you'd be wrong. I was starving and though I tried to fix that with a plate of Alambres, they were far too cheesy, I couldn't eat all of it, and I only ended up taking the edge off of said hunger.

It was super loud in there too and then they started trivia and the music was even louder than we were. I must be officially too old because it was officially too loud. Still, I got to talk to just about everyone for a while except Josh and Bill. Sorry guys, I'll have to catch up with you later.

And that was about it. I went back to the park and sat around the campfire for another half hour, but it was early, I was up and I had a ton of work waiting for me in Atlanta and I hit the road.

Goodbye Albany. Goodbye Chehaw. Thanks for the memories and thanks for the good finish.

See ya next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment