THIS PAGE WILL SERVE AS A COLLECTION SPOT FOR WRITE UPS FROM RACERS OR SUPPORT CREW IN ATTENDANCE AT THE 2013 OAK ASS 50/100 MILE MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE. DONT SEE YOURS? SEND IT TO ME AT firstname.lastname@example.org Brian Toone
If you told me two years ago at this time that I would be riding in a 50 mile mountain bike race, I would have thought you had seriously lost your mind. I had just started riding and thought lake trail out and back was a big ride day. The first time I added snake trail to my "out and back" I bragged about how many miles that was. But here I was two years later sitting at the starting line for a 50 mile race. Over those years I had met two girls, Holly Carmichael and Gretchen McElveen who became the catalyst for my cycling goals. I blame (give credit) to them for my new addiction. If one of them suggests something I have to try it even if it sounds insane. We are all a little competitive like that. But I think Oak Ass was my bright idea. Gretchen was in because we both wouldn't miss a race on our home trails but couldn't convince Holly of this endeavor, this year. We'll work on that for next year. (At one point Gretchen proposed 100 miles, but I think she was delusional that day or something.)
Having never really done anything quite like this solo I had grand plans of training etc. But hence real life sometimes gets in the way and it was just bad timing this year for proper preparation. But I was still was determined to see if I could ride 50 miles solo, even though I had not ridden more than 30 in over 9 months. Not really a good idea but I set a goal of 6 hours and not to die.
In the weeks before the race I had a nagging lower back issue that I really couldn't shake, so I was worried it would be a problem. And race morning my back was hurting before the race even started. But I was excited anyway and had Gretchen and Jeff McCord from my team MG&G doing the race also so there was no way I was going to bail! I would have taken way too much grief for that.
My race itself was rather uneventful the first lap. I have learned over the races that I have done this year that you should always try to be the first in the woods. I didn't use this strategy for this race since it was 50 miles thinking it wouldn’t matter. NOT TRUE, especially on courses that you are more familiar with than others. (And yes, I ignored good advice on this) I was surprised that at the start everyone took off and I caught the entire group at the entrance to seven bridges and was bottle necked. Wet slick roots were tripping a lot of riders up. So until camp road I was in a pace line it seemed. I decided to take the first lap at a pretty easy steady pace just to get through, hope it would ward off lower back trouble and make sure I didn't wear my legs out too fast. But alas, by the time I got to Jekyl and Hyde (JNH) it was time for some more Advil, so I knew it was going to be a long day. Shockingly though I passed quite a few riders on the technical part of JNH which put a big smile on my face. I love technical stuff. Then the climb up Peavine, and I was passed by one rider that I passed on JNH. But only one caught me. That was actually quite an accomplishment for me. And I caught another rider. Another huge accomplishment for me! As I finished the first lap I knew I just had to survive the second.
My legs were OK but there was no way my back was going to let me push too hard. I could spin and the pain was tolerable but too hard and "no go". Gretchen and I "pitted" about the same time. I had really hoped to keep far enough ahead of her to get out of the pit before she got there. (Sorry Gretchen) Pete Foret was grabbing our camel backs off of us and refilling while we grabbed our pb&j's. Pete, who always has a car full of anything you can imagine, had a thermo wrap thing that I put on my back to see if it would help. Gretchen tears out of the pit saying "see you at JNH". While I love my cycling friend we are competitive and it’s every man for themselves during a race. So I hated that she was gone before me, but thought I may be able to make up some ground on technical stuff because she would kill me on the climbs. Well that thought was short lived when I somehow had a nice crash on seven bridges. I still don't quite know what happened but taking a handlebar to the armpit was quite painful. And the calf cramp had me leaned against a tree trying to get the knot under control. So no way to catch her now! (BTW...Mitch Moses seemed to come out of nowhere to help me on my feet and hold my bike so a belated thanks to you!) I decided just to ride out the last lap to finish.
I had no idea who I was racing or where they were but this was going to be a personal accomplishment for me and I needed to treat it as such. I was alone for most of that lap. So I began making a mental list of "Things I learned today" to keep my mind off of my back and arm! Here are items that I can remember from my list:
1. I have got to figure out what the heck is going on with my back.
2. I am not too bad of a technical rider. But I hate climbing.
3. I'm glad I still have a triple on my bike.
4. I really want a full suspension bike!
5. I may have been too old to start this sport.
6. I would like to ride an endurance race and not be lapped by Brian Toone (as he went around me topping Pevine falls road on my second lap and his third. He did say Good job though. But then Lee Neal, as I’m about to go up Johnson’s, says “Hey Jan, Brian Toone lapped you.” I yelled back “It’s on my list!!”)
7. I wish I could get a different song in my head. I like "Some nights" by Fun but I need a new song. (And the Mosh up of the Lords Prayer, Some Nights, Third Day and counting pedal strokes is really a weird mix.) 8. I count my pedal strokes. Why did I do this??.
9. Is eight Advil and two Excedrin too many?
10. This is all Holly and Gretchen’s fault.
11. I will not quit. Monty Morris will never let me live it down.
12. I'm glad I have family obligations or I would have to race a cross race tomorrow because if Gretchen and Holly do it then I will have too.
There were many more, so it’s clear that my mind was all over the palace as I finished that lap. On JNH (I passed some more riders, happy day) someone was behind yelling at me. I thought I was in his way so I said go around. He yelled back "No way, I'm following your line!". I think that is one of the best compliments I have ever received!!! I met him after the race and he told me he had walked some of that on his first lap and he got behind me on the second and got through it. I coasted to the end at 6:20. Not my goal but I finished. As I went over the finish line someone said "I'll get your timing chip you need to get to the podium. You’re fourth.” I was so confused. I walked my bike over to the podium and was handed prizes. I still had on my gear: helmet, camelback etc. The picture is priceless to me. I may not have accomplished the goals I had originally set for myself, but I learned a lot during that race one of which was stubbornness will trump pain. Later Jacob Tubbs said “That was pretty much the most badass podium walks I have ever seen!” (I have to admit, I usually think the superfast guys don’t usually pay much attention to us slow pokes, so that WAS the best compliment I have ever gotten!)
As I sat with my friends waiting on some 100 miler friends to finish, I devoured some of the best stew I have ever eaten and we all told stories of our day and cheered other riders on. I was already thinking of the next big race I will do. I love this sport and the friends I have made. I may not win, but I’ll have fun trying. So a huge shout out to all of the organizers (I was glad to finally officially meet this legend, John Karrasch) and the Birmingham mountain biking community. You rock.
So I half assed a race this past weekend. The Oak Ass 100/50. I did the 50 mile option, and John Karrasch, the brain behind this race asked me to do a race writeup. Well he said "Jeff McCord, the tale of how I nursed you back from your broken bird wing to make great endurance racer would be welcomed by all I'm sure." How can I turn down anyone that's deluded enoughto call me a "great endurance racer"?
I met John 4.5 years ago in the summer of 2009. I purchased my first mountain bike in late May of '09, and one week later I ended up landing hard on my head and shoulder going down a drop I had no business attempting. It was REALLY dumb! I mean, the day I got the bike, I went to Mr. Toads trail, and turned around when I saw the first root - yes, Really. I was 33, and hadn't biked since I turned 16 and got a car. I had zero bike skills or fitness.
So I landed upside down, and ended up breaking my helmet, and a level 1 to 2 A-C separation of my shoulder. John was one of the guys who I went to see for physical therapy that summer. I was off the bike for a few weeks, but thankfully I kept at it. I was so horribly out of shape from a sedentary lifestyle that I couldn't ride to the end of Mr. Toads for the first few weeks I did ride. John mentioned he mountain biked too, but he was more into the 6-9 hour endurance rides. I thought that was absolutely CRAZY! 6-9 HOURS!! Pedaling on a bicycle!?!? Who does this crap?? The only thing I did for 6-9 hours straight was sleep or play World of Warcraft frag noobs in Call of Duty.
So that summer I worked on my fitness by riding my bike, and I grew to love the wondrous places that bicycle took me. I loved being in the woods as a child and teenager, but hadn't experienced that in a couple decades. In August I was able to complete my first loop of Oak Mountain and then I started coming to the Thursday evening rides at Oak Mtn.
I did two races in 2010 - Bump'n'Grind and Dead Dog, but I didn't really enjoy either one. I took BnG seriously, and tried really hard - rode beyond my skill level and crashed three times. I did make it down Blood Rock for the first time ever in that race, and have some really cool scars to remember it by! I didn't take Dead Dog as seriously, and enjoyed it more, but still can't say I "loved" racing.
Flash forward to 2013. My fitness had come and gone with Facebook relationship statuses. In April of this year I picked up my riding. I lost around 30 lbs over 5 months, and started racing with my friends Jan Ardovino and Gretchen McElveen. Jan talked me into racing Yargo, and that led to riding the Tour de Blue and the rest of the AMBS races for the year. I even did my first road race - a time trial, and picked up a cyclocross bike to reach an all new level of cycling obsession with that flavor of racing.
I'd heard the rumblings of the Oak Ass race for about a year before it happened. I'd even done a few of the early proposed Oak Ass loops that were 33 miles with fellow racer Nick Kirby. That was about the farthest I'd ever ridden my mountain bike before I really started training for the Oak Ass, and 41 miles is the longest ride I had before the actual race.
During my training I'd planned on keeping my heart rate in a certain zone and keeping it there. That was my plan, and to try to hold a 10mph pace to finish in 5 hours. That worked great in training, but not so much in the actual race.
So on race day, I found myself with my friends and MG&G teammates Jan and Gretchen lining up to race 50 miles. This was the least nervous before a race I'd ever been. Often my heart rate is up around 130bpm at the start of a race, it was hovering around 78 this morning. The horn was sounded and we started moving. I weaved through some of the pack on the parade lap, hit the downhill on Terrace Dr. towards 7 Bridges, and tucked down and caught a number of folks. The bottleneck at the singletrack began, and the jockeying for position, passing, and general race nerves set in. Heart rate quickly went to around 175, which is threshold for me. I wanted to stay closer to 150-165, but with the stopping, and starting, running around folks after we all stop in a big line... Keeping below threshold or even anaerobic wasn't going to happen for awhile.
We made it through 7 bridges, and hit the fire road, but it seemed everyone else had my same plan which was to hit the gas and pass on the fire road.. So I pushed even harder because I was very familiar with the trails and didn't like stopping and walking over sections I've ridden hundreds of times before. Heart rate still too high. I knew I was burning more energy than I needed too, but it seemed unavoidable. Made it through Garrett's Gulch, and the Rock Garden with only a few more bottlenecks. The crik crossing (it's not big enough to be called a creek) in the Rock Garden served as another bottleneck. Everyone stopped, I got off my bike and ran with it through the woods parallel to the trail to get around as many as I could. Heart rate at nearly max - 186. (I'm not a runner, obviously.)
Made it through Chimneys with another bottleneck on the climb around one of the roots. Hit Cat-Dog-Snake, and was riding the wheel of this girl who was riding really well. We hit a bridge and she went down. I asked if she was ok, and she said yea, so I got around her and hit the gas to catch the next rider. My friend Scott Thigpen was up ahead, and we exchanged a few words, though I can't remember what they were. Once we got to the fire road, I unloosed my camelbak to grab a gu. I normally stick them in the legs of my shorts, but since it was cold and I had my full pants on, this didn't work. I attempted to snap my camelbak back on while riding, but ended up having to stop to snap it all back together. I'd lost some time and let some riders pass me while I struggled with the camelbak, but now that it was all together, I ate my gu, and hit the gas. I kept my heart rate below anaerobic - I knew I was going to burn some extra energy here to pass as many people before we hit Jekyl & Hyde.
Climbing red road, I passed some folks and came up on Scott Thigpen. He was pacing for the 100 mile race, and I gave him some words of encouragement as I went by. I wasn't trying to set any records on this climb, but I still ended up doing it in under 16 minutes. This would have been a massive PR less than 6 months ago. Cresting the top of the climb, my friend Nick Kirby was there and he was also pacing for the 100 mile. Just prior to the BUMP connector, I passed Nathan Hodge (also a 100 miler - but on a full rigid SS - he's "special"). I passed another couple girls on the BUMP connector, and one of them was the female leader (John Karrasch was at the JnH/Blood Rock split and I could hear him give them time splits). I was behind a couple people on JnH, and while I'm not an excellent technical rider, I'll say I am adept. The two in front of me eventually bobbled, and I was able to get around them and then let it fly. Other than the dab behind the two when they stopped, I cleaned Hyde. Hit Jekyll, and kept going. The ground was still wet from the previous night's rain, so I kept my speed in check going down Jekyll since I was afraid of washing out on one of the outside turns in the pine straw.
I use a drop seat post and I have had zero problems with it. Until now. While doing the climbs on Jekyl, I noticed it felt like I was riding low. I thought maybe my drop seat post switch was getting gummed up, so I hit the remote switch and pulled up on the seat. Felt like it was going all the way up, but I still felt low. Maybe my seat was dropping in the frame. Once I hit Peavine Road, I could tell my seat was definitely low. I hopped off the bike, and grabbed my multi tool. The dropper itself was collapsing. So I raised the seat to counter what portion it had collapsed,and kept riding. Nick and Nate passed me and asked if everything was ok - I said "yea, dropper is collapsing."
Nick and Nate
I ate a Gu on the climb, and hit the CCC trail and then Blood Rock. I was right behind someone coming into Blood Rock, and I should have given them more room. They were going slower than I could manage, and I had to dab at the last tree. I peg legged down the rest of BR, and caught back up to the guy on Quarry Road. I planned on passing him once we hit Johnson's Mountain, but my seat had dropped some more. I had to stop again on Johnson's and raise my seat WAY up. It went from 5 inches of travel to about 3/4" of an inch. I cycled it a few times as hard as I could, but it wouldn't stay up. I raised the seat up about 3-4 inches above the minimum insertion points (I realized that AFTER the race), and kept going. The seat was too high, but with the 3/4" of travel I could get it into the Goldilocks zone.
I finished Johnson's, Foreplay, Toads, and Family, swung through the timing mat, and I'd planned to grab my sandwich and/or banana out of my camelbak and eat on the move. At the timing mat, there was a box full of bananas, so I just grabbed one of those, and kept on pedaling. I debated on dumping the extra weight in my camelbak, but figured it wasn't much and this way I could keep moving and make up time without a pit stop.
Tucked on the descent on Terrace Drive back to 7 Bridges and caught back up and passed Nick and Nate. I made it through the lower trails and felt really good. I knew from my training that I'd start feeling the pain around mile 35-40. That was pretty accurate. There were no bottlenecks, and I was able to keep my heart rate under control for the second lap, but I had burned a lot more energy than I planned on the first lap (Isn't that how it always goes though? You'd think I'd have learned this by now.)
Throughout my second lap, I'd slowly approach another rider, take and overpass them. Everyone was really cool about being passed. Good sportsmanship all around. I made it to Jekyl & Hyde, and was on someone's wheel. They bobbled on the top section, and I made it around them. Again, other than this one bobble I cleaned Hyde. I felt pretty good about that since when I get tired I usually start making bad mistakes on tricky technical sections... like fresh pavement. However I was getting the beginnings of cramps in my legs. Had a quiver in my left thigh that led to a wave of twitches that went from behind my right knee to my diaphragm. I backed off a little and started sucking down more water. I'd opted for my bottle of gatorade instead of another Gu on the 2nd red road climb, and I ate another Gu when I hit the Peavine Road climb.
Kept sucking down water, and now I had to REALLY pee! OMG! I wasn't stopping though. I knew that once I finished Peavine it was pretty much all down hill.
I made it through blood rock to the tree I bobbled on on my first lap.. and hit it. I should have walked as tired as I was, but I love going down BR, and I hate to punk out on it. I was tired though, and swung too wide on the last turn, and clipped the tree with my handlebars. I unclipped and put a foot down, but it was too late, and fell on my right side.. luckily on a flat rock. Got up, swallowed my pride, and walked to the base. Descended Quarry Road at a controlled pace, and started the last climb up Johnson's. My legs were exhausted. I hurt all over, and I just wanted it to be over. I never felt like I bonked, but my legs were shot and the pain was making it "not fun" anymore.
Descending the last part of Johnson's I saw one rider up ahead, but I had no energy or desire to chase him down. I kept seeing him, and almost caught him in the switchbacks of Foreplay, but once he saw me on his tail he hit the gas and was quickly out of sight. I kept at my pace, and saw him up ahead from time to time. I knew the race was almost over and my competitive edgekicked in. I picked up my pace. By the time I hung a left onto the Rattlesnake connector from Toads to Family, he wasn't that far ahead. When we hit family, I was on his wheel, and he let me around. I didn't want to get caught by him or anyone else, so I hit the gas. The race was almost done, and I wanted to finish strong. Finished Family, and hit the road. I was alone, but I sprinted to the finish.
My goal was under 5 hours, and I finished in 4:47. I put 40 seconds into that last rider I passed, and ended up 17 of 43 for solo 50 milers. I did pretty good on my second lap despite the pain and cramps because I was in the mid 20s after my first lap. My second lap was actually about a minute 40 faster than my first lap. According to my Garmin, the mechanicals cost me about 6 minutes. Not bad, and I'm pretty happy with my results.
The BUMP stew was awesome, and I want to thank John Karrasch for scouting the routes and being the force behind this race. And also nursing my broken baby bird wing back to health so I could become this "great endurance racer"! I'd like to thank BUMP for maintaining and building the trails, and Chainbuster's for hosting this event!
I had delusions of grandeur prior to the race and was afraid that when I committed to the 50 mile option that I would have wished I'd done the 100 after it was all said and done. I'm proud to say that was NOT the case! 50 miles was exactly right for me. I wasn't pedaling 10 more feet!
Gretchen and Jan pulled in a little while after I did. Jan pulled in at the exact moment she needed to be on the podium, so she literally got off her bike and took her spot for the podium pic. Pretty epic moment! Gretchen took 3rd and Jan took 4th! I'm so proud of my teammates!
MGG Podium Girls
We hung out with some other friends and waited on the 100 milers to finish their race. We encouraged them as they came through after 75 miles, and I was astounded when they finished 100. Amazing feat!
After a few beers and a bottle of wine (for Jan), the pain and agony had receded from memory, and we were looking forward to do it again next year! Maybe I'll do the 100... There it is again... Delusions of grandeur.
I can now say I "love" racing. The competition is fun, but the friends and camaraderie amongst us is what has made me fall in love with the sport. Life is good.
Enjoy this write up from 3rd place Solo Female Gretchen Mcelveen of MGG Racing.
An account from a girl…
I am proud to say that I finished my first Oak Ass 50 and I live to tell about it! My account of it will be quite different from the ones you may have read already. I am not so pro like some of these other guys. I’ve been riding bikes for a couple years now and I blame any “racing” I do on peer pressure from friends (coughcoughJan&Hollycoughcough) who can always sucker me into things.
But I knew that when it came down to it, I would want to do this race because it is on my home course. How could I resist? So I signed up and set 2 goals: 1) Don’t die. 2) Finish under 6 hours. I wasn’t going to set any records but I knew I could at least finish.
I did my anti-rain dance all week and it worked! Sort of. It rained a lot the day before the race and the trails were left pretty slick in spots. But it was not raining at the starting line! And heck, it wasn’t even terribly cold.
As I usually do, I started off at the back of the pack. I wasn’t the last one in the woods, but I wasn’t far from it. Hey there were 49.5 more miles to go. I was saving my legs people! I just tried to keep my friend Jan in my sights. I wanted to keep up with her but, let’s be honest, on most of these trails she is just faster than me. I managed to pass a few people on my way to North Trailhead and on the dreaded Red Road climb. Knowing the trails so well came to my advantage! By this time the field had thinned out and most of the time I was riding solo.
I had Avril Lavigne’s song “Bad Girl” from her new CD stuck in my head and some of the lyrics were actually fitting for the occasion. It has a good beat to it and kept my mind occupied.
I caught Jan somewhere on the Red Road climb but then she passed me right back coming down it on the way to Jekyl & Hyde. She got a pretty good gap on me as she tore through the technical stuff. I am not so good at rocks so I just wanted to survive that tough ~1 mile stretch. And I would like it to be known that I passed 2 guys (yes, guys!) on that technical section. They were walking and I happened not to be…at the time. I got Jan back in my sights on Johnson’s Mountain with just a few more miles to go to complete the 1st lap. I then started planning my pit strategy because all of a sudden I got competitive (sorry Jan!). I thought it would be to my advantage to make my stop quick and get back out before her. I knew she could run me down so I needed to give myself a little head start.
I finished the first lap in 2:53 and change. I was pleased but knew there wasn’t a lot of room for error if I was going to make it under 6 hours. I went into Nascar mode and short pitted taking fuel only and no tires. J I ate a little and then got back on the bike.
The 2nd lap was pretty lonely. I only encountered 2 other riders the entire 25 miles. Funny that I didn’t really notice the mile markers on the first lap but I sure noticed them on the 2nd. It was kind of fun, though, counting down the miles, taking it trail by trail, with Avril’s catchy song still blaring in my head. I actually felt better the 2nd lap than I expected and I thought surely I was going to make it under 6 hours (yes I should invest in a Garmin…maybe Santa will hook me up). When I finally came out of the woods on to the pavement and then turned toward the finish line I saw that the official clock said 5:59:50. Woah! Close! No coasting to the finish line for me. My final time was 5:59:55 I believe. Goals achieved! Under 6 hours and I live to tell about it!
*Anyone that wants their Oak Ass story told but lacks a blog format email me and I will publish it here for you. email@example.com
To say Tracy McKay is an experienced ultra racer would be a bit of an understatement. His bio can be found here: BlackMarket-Fitness
Following is his Oak Ass 100 account...Thanks Tracy!
OAKASS100 is over, and let me say... The ass feels a little beaten... Actually, nothing more than expected... Stiff and sore nothing a hottub and yoga can't fix... However, my forearms and fingers are shot pretty good, probably some carpel damage.
Spoke with race partner Andrew Clark this morning and as expected, he's just fine... No aches or pains... (I hate him....)
Here is the race break down from my perspective...
Here are my splits...WITH DETAILS.. RACE STARTS, course is packed with riders slowing things down a bit...had to "look for trail" to get pass slower riders... 1 lap- 2:18 ,20 minutes faster than my best time... Buying myself almost 40 minutes.. Pit area, filled camelback and grabbed another calories bottle, 610 calories...ULTRAGEN
2 lap- 2:45 , (good time), 50 miles completed, 1 episode of tachycardia felt like shit... sapping my energy quite a bit, took longer than normal to get heart down from 200 bpm. Cleared up moved on... Rt thumb and hand dead to feeling, due to previous nerve damage
3 lap- 2:38. 75 miles completed, Felt incredible, no problems gripping
4th lap DNF/ did not finish... 2 nd episode of tachy...cleared up in 3-4 minutes, Ran without lights in the dark as long as possible to conserve energy, then when trail narrowed time for lighting... Headlamp went out during start of Jekyll and Hyde..fell twice on JNH no big deal...portaged 75 % of technical section...
A 3rd episode of tachy Hit me and left me dead in the water...legs great, but the energy sap was a bit scary... So I bailed... Andrew caught me at this point and disappeared into the night up Peavine just a red blinky light ....reminded me of the Cyclops in ancient episodes of Galactica...
Nutrition was dead on... 630 calories per lap, then 1/2 banana and stew made by Pete Foret, and acquired by my wife Leigh McKay.
I pulled in and dnf'd myself grabbed a double hand full,of Shipleys doughnut holes and went to the car to get heated up...
The headlamp,of Andrew Clark flickered in the dark and he pulled in at 11hours and 30 minutes finishing the OAKASS 100 his first 100 mile mtn bike race...
Special thanks to : CHAINBUSTERS and John Karasch for putting on the race Pete Foret for goating me into doing the 100, which I wanted in the first place... Jason Barksdale and the guys at BBC for technical assistance.. The new tire suggestion was spot on! Leigh Mckay as my pit crew filling camelbaks, sorting gear and grabbing food .. Andrew Clark for being such A great race partner!
I don't normally do race reports but the Oak Ass 50/100 represented a number of firsts for the race and for me, so I decided to make an exception. Here are some of the firsts:
- First ever 50/100 race at Oak Mountain (that I know of)
- First race I ever decided to do less than 12 hours before the race
- First endurance race where I wound up on the podium
- First time I ever willingly let Brian Toone set pace in front of me on singletrack (sorry, Brian. You won, you can handle it.)
I've been doing steadily more MTB racing in the last few years, with a few endurance races thrown in - most notably, 2 years of the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series in Dalton, Georgia. I could write a book on those races, but would sum it up with this: If you ride dirt, you need to ride the Snake.
Most of my endurance races have gone about the same way: Start fast (too fast), ride well but way too hard for the first hour, have an "oh crap, you're an idiot" moment in the 2nd hour, cramp, cramp some more, and crawl to the finish in total, grinding, limping misery for the last hour. Or 2. Or 3. I am a pretty spectacular muscle cramper - I have strong fast twitch muscles that are great for the explosive power needed in road sprinting, but which are utterly useless off road. When they start to cramp, it is going to be a real bad time. I've had cramps so bad that I literally had to be helped off the bike and couldn't reach down to take my socks off for 6 hours after a race. It's kind of my superpower, but in reverse.
Even some cross-country races have gone this way: Bump N' Grind is a 2-hour plus loop for the cat 1s, and after spending most of this year's race in the top 5, I experienced a total lockup in both hamstrings and quads with exactly 1 mile to go, and spent 13 minutes holding onto a tree, trying not to collapse / cry, failing, watching rider after rider pass me on the way to the finish.
Consider that foreshadowing.
When I first heard mention of the Oak Ass 100, I thought: No. Not a chance. Cramp city. But a few days before the race, I heard people talking about a 50-mile option, and it seemed like a reasonable, not totally insane distance to race, and good preparation for this year's Snake. Waiting to the last possible second, I begged my way into the race and showed up dark and early Saturday morning.
Totally unprepared to race 50 miles on any surface - I hadn't ridden over 3 hours since August - I decided to approach the Oak Ass as training. Unfortunately, there was a start and finish line, and when they said go, any plans of "training pace" went out the window. Kenny Griffin's truck led us on a parade tour of the loop road and parking lots, and suddenly... I was crit racing. 4 corners and a pace car? Heck yeah. Rip it.
5 minutes later, riding nearly 30mph down the road toward the entrance to 7 Bridges, 120+ cyclists strung out behind me, Brian Toone tucked onto my wheel, sanity started to creep in. I sat up, swung over, and let 4 or 5 guys come by. Training Pace. Endurance Pace. C'mon Jacob. Don't be an idiot.
A lot of the riders around me seemed to be from out of state and unfamiliar with the trails, and I realized pretty quickly that I could ride faster, smoother, with less effort, if I was leading rather than following. I started working my way past a few of the riders that I had let by. Unfortunately, I managed to crash myself attempting a ridiculous pass on a rider that was trying to let me by, and wound up keeping it pretty pinned for most of the first 30 minutes.
I settled down just in time to close in on Brian Toone right as we hit the Chimneys Climb, which is the first hill of any sort on the lower end of the trail system before the Red Road climb. Brian was riding a nice steady pace, and I figured sitting on his wheel would force me to back off a bit and settle in. He'd drop me on all the punchy climbs, I'd pull him back on the tech downhills. Good.
We hit the Red Road a few minutes later. I hollered encouragement at Brian, knowing he was itching to get the KOM, and he shot up the road and out of sight in seconds. I settled in for a grind. I'm never a good climber, and I knew that the only way to survive this race was to ride a controlled pace on the climbs to save my legs as long as possible.
Several riders behind me WERE good climbers, and I was passed almost immediately by a number of guys, including overall 50-mile winner Scott Staubach. Scott's pace on his Singlespeed was super impressive, and I never even thought about following him. Some of the next guys to pass were riding a more reasonable fast pace that I figured I could maintain, and most of them seemed to underestimate the length and difficulty of the the road climb. So, of the 6 guys that passed me shortly after Scott, I caught 3 by the top of the climb using my same slowpoke pace, and caught the last 2 - Randy Kerr and eventual 2nd place 50-miler Tyler Murch - right as we finished the road section and dropped in to the Quarry bypass trail. (I think eventual 5-mile Open winner Brian Roggeveen passed me here and was never seen again. He finished lap 1 about 1 minute ahead of me.)
Catching Kerr and Tyler was important: I could tell both were stronger than I was, and I figured 1 or both was racing in my category (turns out, only Tyler was), but also figured I'd be faster than them on the Jekyll technical stuff (Kerr was on a hardtail, Tyler was from out of town).
I was right, sort of: I got a good little gap on them during the top part of Jekyll, but due to the deep piles of leaves (I was only the 4th rider down the trail at this point, and it was BURIED), I couldn't see any of the familiar lines. I picked my way down but wasn't fast, by any stretch. Sure enough, Tyler quickly caught me up on the rolling hills leading out of Hyde, and I let him by as we approached Peavine Road.
I shoveled food in my mouth as Tyler blasted up Peavine, and was shortly joined by Randy Kerr. Kerr was riding a very hard pace on the lower part of the climb and again I just watched him power away from me up Peavine. He and Tyler hit the new Firepit trail barely in sight, about 30 seconds ahead. I chased them down the hill and caught Randy somewhere below Blood Rock. I got Tyler back somewhere in there too, and finished lap 1 in a respectable 1:58.
Lap 2 was a different story. Randy followed me out of the lot onto the road, and we rolled into the singletrack together. He had chain issues and I wound up riding ahead solo for a while. Around the BMX track, I started to see my ol' buddy Professor Toone cruising through the trees, and backed off a little to make sure I didn't get carried away. As usual, Brian disappeared when we hit the Red Road climb, and I ground up slowly. Again, Randy would catch and drop me on the climb, and again I would start making up time on the Quarry bypass trail.
This time, however, my luck changed. As I dropped into Jekyll, with encouragement from John Karrasch, I saw Randy Kerr and Brian just ahead. Motivated to catch them both quickly and hopefully put them between me and Tyler, who I knew was coming on strong behind, I started pressing. My legs immediately began sending cramp warning signs out: twitches and spams everywhere. Danger Will Robinson. I was in trouble.
Undeterred (or maybe just stupid), I blasted through the first tech sections on Jekyll, then hopped over a small diagonal down tree... only to cramp in both hamstrings as I launched, clipping the tree with my back tire, flipping all my weight forward into a brutal, high-siding endo.
I'm not sure what happened next. There is a brief period of time - maybe a second or 2 - where things are fuzzy. I remember sitting there for a good minute, doing the basic body inventory (arms attached? check. arms unbroken? check. legs attached?). My head was throbbing and helmet dented, but I was otherwise ok. I heard riders coming down the trail above me, so grabbed my bike and hopped back on... only to realize that my handlebar was now roughly parallel with my front wheel. And my chain was off, and my wheel was crooked in the dropout, and my bottle was about 50 feet downhill. Whoops. Unable to steer my wonked-out front end, I expertly crashed back into the ground. This time, I looked down in horror as as the muscles in my quads seized so hard they raised about an inch above my leg. I staggered around like I had been struck by lightning, trying to stop the runaway cramp train before it ended my day. Eventually they subsided, and I turned back to bike repair and trying to salvage what was left of my race.
Time ticked away as I got everything up and running. Tyler was long gone, and barring him getting lost, all I could hope for was to hold it together and hope to hold on to a podium.
I crawled up Peavine Road, at times doing 10 rpm in a huge gear, just to keep my cramping legs from completely locking down. I cruised down Blood Rock, feeling pretty good, knowing if I could hold on up Johnson's Mountain, I'd be home free.
Johnson's came and went, and the next thing I remember is sweeping down through Foreplay and Family, visions of BUMP stew in my head. 2 bowls later, I was napping in my car, waiting for the podium, dreaming about my next Oak Ass race.
Thanks to Kenny, Pete Foret, John Karrasch, Lee Neal, and the rest of the BUMP crew and volunteers for a spectacular first time event. It was a memorable day and I'll definitely be back.
Edgewood Cycles will be sponsoring a KOM prize at the top of the fire road climb on the first lap. First man, woman, and SS take home a Fatsak messenger bag! Just added, there will be a $75.00 cash pay out to the Solo Masters category thanks to ACT Physical Therapy!
Peak of the climb is about nine miles into the race by the park benches. Cowbells and a Fatsak banner will greet you:)
50 or 100 milers eligible. Must finish your full race distance to win KOM. KOM spot is 9 miles in at peak of red road climb where the benches and park map are located.
This is judged on the first lap only. The first person in each category that reaches the top where our photographer is (at the peak) will win. We will determine the winner by photo and race number plate.
On the state park provided trail map it is the spot marked "peak of climb" right before turn off for boulder ridge.