02 February, 2008

Snake Creek Gap #2

Without the assistance of Chip's wife, this will be a non photo essay chronicling the second installment of the Snake Creep Gap Six Mountain Time Trial. Saturday's weather was perfect but, I "ain't from around here" so I don't know what went on over the last few days. Rumors of heavy rains weren't evident from the parking lot, but made themselves known immediately on the first climb. Clearly not horrible, Ohio-esqe conditions, but this was not going to be an easy day. Passed quite a few folks on the way up the sticky climb to the singletrack, made the first steep climb and settled in. Caught Chip in here somewhere, and his courteous, "one more back," made it easy to slice through the slower riders. Chip put some time on me before we made it to the gravel downhill, but I reeled him in on the short rise before the pine tree climb. Put a little time on him up the climb, held him off on the downhill, but his bigger gear caught me through the flats. Then there was more mud. The "georgia red" kind. Ohio mud kind of splashes in your face, squirrels your front wheel, and gets out of your way. Georgia mud sticks with you like student loans. Hung with Chip, chatting back and forth through all of this, made a little time and hit my least favorite climb, starting with the dreaded left switchback. Ran it as usual and begun the grind. This, after a solid month of training, is where the cramps began. Started sucking down Accel Gels from my striped concoction. And reached the ridgeline. This first ridge is the worst kind of mental trick an elevation profile can play. After climbing a clearly obvious "climb," trail blending with the horizon above, you level off and hit some tighter singletrack. I got a little over confident, and forgot that this isn't really the top. Fittingly, I get to now follow Chip to the top. Typically, I lose Chip before the top but pick up a couple geared guys to hang on with, both of which I've raced with before and never met. We crest the true top of the climb, and start the long downhill to the midway point. I got a little loose on the downhill, and frantically drifted about 10 yards of a sweeping offcamber righthand turn, my right foot toe-tapping the inside high berm. I got about 15 more bpm and lots of cheers from behind from my geared friend, and we all, Chip included, had made the half way point.

Our geared brethren suggest we take the pace on this climb, and Chip and I take off, drop the geared guys, make the final switchback together, head left, and I slowly lose a little bit from his wheel. Definitely felt a little better on this climb, as though I was putting good power down without standing out of the saddle. This climb's top actually turns immediately into a downhill after a few switchbacks, and just like the last race, I meet up with Chip in the wide grassy rolling section at the bottom. A little chit chat and I decide to leave. At this point, Chip is my only competition in the race, I'm feeling good, and tapping the brakes to stay behind him on the rollers. I take off, start the gravel road climb, and shortly thereafter am overcome by David Hall, fellow Ohian. I grab his rear wheel and hang on to the top. Two signs read "Gels?," "Water?," only to be followed by two guys standing around doing nothing. Again. That's the last time I fall for that stunt. I'm sorry, but this is a race. A lot of folks come out and are happy just to finish, and that's dandy. Its a great trail, a great grassroots event, and one of the hardest many will encounter. But for a lot of people, seconds count. And if you are supposed to offer water and sponsored products (Honey stinger gels) up to riders, they should be ready for the hand off. These two guys seem to offer the, "Sure, y'all can come over here to these tables, dismount, and enjoy a leisurely race side tea service featuring delectable honeycarb finger sandwiches and thirst quenching water." GO HOME! Seriously, don't even show up next race.
The top of this climb yields to some flat fast, and dry single track, and I continue to keep a little distance through the rocky last 8 miles. My legs, considering their early alignment with the darkside, feel okay. Tired, but no cramps. Then I hit the wall. No mere figurative expression, "the wall" is a section of this trail I'm dying to find out if anyone actually rides with 5500 feet of climbing protruding from their belt. And of course Chip is right there behind me. We enjoy quality time next to our bikes together, Chip tries a few times to mount his steed while I walk next to him, but we eventually hit the top, and its the last I see of him. The next 4 or 5 miles are embarrassing. My legs aren't cramping, but they aren't quite pedaling either. I called my last race a controlled fall, this was a two bottle of Maker's Mark stumble. Anything that involved a positive slope or chunk of granite was met with the soles of my shoes firmly planted in the soil and the pawls of my Hope hub singing next to me. Other than that, nothing memorable less the cellular towers, and a fast descent to the finish line.

Final Stats:
Finish Time 3:29:54, 6th best time SS, still 4th over all with a 3:29:12 (tight race, way to go guys)
A bruised ego after a lot of training, or atleast making the best of my work and ride situation
This weird bump coming out of my wrist that hurts real bad, and was made worse by a day of riding on Sunday.
And I'm left with a hunger for some more hard work to try to get back on the official podium in March, I just hope the conditions are faster. March in Georgia typically means slow.

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