Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jeff McCord's Delusional Oak Ass 50

Pre Race

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.

PS - I've never played Call of Duty.

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