That is probably the number one rule leading into a race or any important event, really. It is why people say to not change things on the bike or try new supplements before a race. People ask me about carb loading before a race and I always laugh a bit. I have no idea how many carbs are in my dinners any given night and am not sure how I would go about further loading that upwards. Eat until full, have a beer or two, go to sleep. I'll be opening my nutritional coaching services any day now, thanks.
But anyway, D.F.Y.U. If you don't get that look at Andy Kirkpatricks article here: http://andy-kirkpatrick.com/blog/view/d.f.y.u
I wasn't totally sure I would be racing or volunteering Oak Ass (Cahaba 50 for you tender eared folk) but in either case, a jacked up back is a bad thing. I woke up in the middle of the night early Friday with exactly that. Wonderful...Saturday left me pretty sore still and I had unintentionally broke my rule of not messing myself up pre race. We had an influx of NICA teams to help with the race which meant I was off to race. I chose the 50 mile option so I would have time to help volunteer afterwards.
I chatted with Jason Bierly and Nick Kirby pre race. They were both worse off than me with some cracked ribs so I kept my pre race excuse making to a minimum. Nobody really cares how anyone slept or ate before a race. That is why prizes are given for placings...not stories!
We had a smaller field this year with about 7 riders for the 100 mile, 50 or so 50 milers and 20 or so in for the 25 mile option. I promised myself I would go hard at the start to avoid the ever frustrating singletrack backlog. I ran a 34/20 gear on my new Superfly and it was pretty perfect for this course. I am not in great shape right now but didn't want to waste my technical ability piddling behind nervous riders. I sucked wheel pretty hard all the way to the singletrack. One geared rider even laughed at me and gave me a push on a slight downhill! The group had some tension to it and that helped break it up some.
Once into the first mile or two of seven bridges I was happy I made the hard effort on the road as I only had one SS rider in front of me: Chad Brandon. I have not met Chad but when I rode at Monte Sano recently his name came up pretty often with nothing but good things mentioned. I made a few passes and was amazed by how dusty the trail was. Hm. I hadn't worn glasses but I think the only helpful kind would have been ski goggles. One rider I passed had a loud, loosely affixed seat pack which was amplified by an erratic riding style. Stiff as a board this fella was. As unsure as he was of the trail, he was pretty set on making me work to make a pass. Thanks, Loose Jangly Seat Bag Guy. Never ride behind someone with a carelessly installed seat bag. You'll wish you hadn't.
My back and hamstrings were really sore and stayed that way most of the race so I won't mention those items again. I focused on the task at hand: not getting passed by Jason Bierly.
Jason is a good rider and I was happy to be in front of him. I was feeling good so went hard through the rest of the singletrack and up the fire road climb. The dust and cool temps were really hurting my vision once we entered Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde was as miserable as I expected. I could barely see where I was but know the trail well and only unclipped once each lap through the rockier parts. Total dusty moonscape action up there. Jekyll brought its own challenges with some loose pine straw about. I have crashed through there before so took it easy and popped out on the road with the lone 100 mile singlespeeder. He was from ATL and we had a good chat up to the top of the Peavine climb. He had a good 100 pace going but I dunno if he finished.
I got away from him and Robin Wilkes on the Blood Rock descent and rode through to the end of the 1st lap alone. 2:09. Oops. Too fast. I started feeling some heavy leg fatigue about 30 miles into the race...you know, like you are racing a bike. That sort of feeling. It sucks but is the price of actually trying and not just surviving. I realized soon enough why I felt so bad...not enough food. My calorie math was off and it was time to play catch up. I grabbed the Lemon Larabar from my pocket and was pretty bummed to see it had been sitting unwrapped for at least a few weeks in my car. A couple bites and I tossed it in a ditch where it belonged. I walked part of the climb. I felt so bad. I never really walk the fire road but it seemed appropriate and nobody was watching, so what the hell...it was a nice walk and I felt a bit better after. I saw Lon Cullen at the top walking his broken bike. He gave me some kind words and really lifted my spirits. I felt grateful for being on a bike in the woods regardless of how shitty I felt.
Jekyll and Hyde was much better this lap but I rode totally alone the 2nd lap. Pretty weird for middle of a race. The Peavine climb sucked again and I was happy to have my TOGS thumb rester things. The extra position really helps on longer rides. My legs came back around for the last 45 minutes or so and I was feeling good once back in the singletrack. Still no Jason or singlespeeders and I wanted to keep it that way so went a bit harder than my legs were happy with. I have been passed in the last couple miles of races before and it is never a good spot to be in. Out on the road and over the timing mat for a 2nd place Singlespeed spot and 10th or so overall. 2nd lap was a 2:30 which felt incredibly slow. It felt like the hardest race I have ever done but I think they all feel like that and I forget the pain really fast or something like that. I had a pretty awesome time and it felt good to get a solid placing on the course I designed. Eddie and Chainbuster did a great job keeping things smooth as always and the volunteers I came across were all awesome.
I have no idea what will happen with Oak Ass next year...I'll update everyone with info as it comes to me but springtime might be a nice spot with it slotted as a training ride to prep for Skyway Epic.