Mud. The first word that comes to mind when remember I this event. But that's really unfair. The mud only lasted one lap, but suffice it to say that the lap in question was a grueling death march over the 10 mile course, that all too often required walking. And because you weren't there, let me differentiate between the run of the mill "I chose to race a 32 x 18" walking and this kind of walking, where play-doh consistency mud caked on the sides of your wheels, and was shaved off by your fork, seat stays and chainstays like a potter throwing a pot. After 15 feet of this, my wheels would stop moving, and I'd be pushing a 50lb deranged sled over the course, or ingeniously trying to lift the world's most benign invention over my head and run. But like I said it wasn't that bad.
The details: After the Yazoo fueled shenanigans of SSUSA, I decided to abandon my 12 hour solo attempt. The course looked like hell in the morning, and I had just bludgeoned a 200 lb. Texan with an inflatable battle rod. What better way to choose a race partner? So with a willing Texas Reverend, we decided duo was the way to go, and then Ben decided that the first lap was all mine. He's got 50 lbs on me, so I agreed.
Lap 1. Started slick, and I was running well among the single speeders, Dejay was gone, but hung with Fuzzy for a bit, and then fell back and hung with Dave Holmes for the rest of the lap. I also found a technique that worked. I took a handfull of mud from behind my forkbrace, and wiped it on my face. Now "one with the mud" I was able to slip through unnoticed. I finished the lap, gave the course over to the Rev, and retired to Camp Yazoo/Addictive Cylces/Inglis Cycles and used a number of impromptu tools to clear mud from the ride. After this, the whole thing got a nice coating of Boeshields T-9. I turned a 1:21:31, which, is actually pretty damn amazing. I was spent though, and very happy to have the Rev out there turning 10 for me while I recovered.
Lap 3: Much better. An actual "line" had become apparent after being tread over about 300 times. I think the mud was still pretty bad outside the 6 inch line, but as long as I stayed in there, I was able to hold things together. A 1:06:51, still walked Sister's Summit, Tombstone Hill, ALL of 911 Hill, and then the steep section of Lucy's on the backside. I think I was just happy to have two wheel that actually rolled, and must of killed it on the rest of the course.
Lap 5: Fast as Hell. Lets see, probably 800-1000 laps had been done on the course by now, and the sun was out. The mud was baking into a perfectly bermed, smooth line, and yesterday's two laps, followed by this mornings had me feeling really comfortable on the Dieringer, and I had the course pretty dialed. 1:03:24...getting faster still at this point of the day and feeling pretty fresh on the course. Up until this point, The Rev and I were trading pints of beer in the transition area, kind of a spontaneous idea we came up for motivation. We asked the timer how we were doing, and he said second. Which meant second in the Pro 2 man category, because there was no SS category. Uh-OH...the idea of just having fun and riding the course had to be back burnered in favor of that Pavlovian part of both of our brains. Someone rings the bell, and we go, and some silly competitive nature takes over. I sent the Rev back out onto the course, sans beer, and with little larger dose of healthy motivation.
Lap 7: At this point we still think we are doing well, top 3 somewhere. Ben had cramped pretty bad on the course but still came in with a 1:05:11, and we transitioned quick and went out. I caught of glimpse of Nat Ross on the course, and decided to chase him down. We road together a little bit. He was kind enough to dress up in a leisure suit, don a mexican wrestling mask, and call SSUSA yesterday. I returned the kindness with a little bit of pulling through some false flats, and bid him farewell. He was on a solo mission, probably his 7th lap at this time. This time around, I climb everything except the steep on 911 and Lucy. The 32 x 20 felt good for this long of a day. The course was a dream at this point, I turned my fastest lap, a 1:03:11, and my hamstring locked just as I dismounted. Ben and I decided that the best strategy at this point was to waste 8 minutes standing around deliberating whether or not to keep going. We found out after my lap that we weren't in 3rd, we were somewhere off the podium. Hmm...no money anymore, and the rest of the crew had quit and retired to the Swiftwick tent and tapped the Yazoo Pale. Tempting. But as professionals, we decided to carry on, and Ben went out.
Lap 9: Ben came in pretty cooked, I dismissed him to the party, and said I wanted to just go out and do one more for the hell of it. I suffer from a very strange phenomenon that I call the "downhill bonk." Anytime I ride for a very long time, and the liver glycogen gets a little low, I don't do the typical, get exhausted, brain starved for suger, bonk. I do the, drop into a fast technical section, and realize that I'm not paying attention, get really scared, and then get light headed and lose the ability to focus on anything. I'm getting used to this short coming, so I immediately down an entire bottle of HEED/Perpetuem Cocktail, soft pedal a bit, and get my wits back. I turn a 1:06:01 and, as promised, leave Ben alone, and join in the party.
We ended up in fourth place in the Pro 2 man category, which earned us a "champagne" toast worthy or our efforts, and an honorable mention during the awards ceremony.
We would have made atleast 10 laps had we continued, and been closer to the top teams than it actually ended up, but we were both proud of our output. We aren't really "pro" but didn't want to race amateur. We would have beaten all the 2 man amateur teams, and they were racing gears!! So that would have been pretty lame as well. Pro was a good fit, it was fun to chase the faster guys around for 12 hours.
Everyone is already saying this, so repeating it at this point seems unnecessary, but this was the best race weekend I've ever been a part of. Clay and Grant go all out. The after party was blast, they gave out a lot of great awards, and made it fun. People actually hung around for the awards ceremony, a rarity at endurance races. There were pros hanging around, bike celebs, dirty singlespeeders, and some Tennessee locals.
And also, a huge congrats to Dejay and Rebecca, who put out an incredible effort. Watching Dejay poker face around the course all day, and then turn a sub hour lap for his 9th lap was incredible. Hats off buddy. And watching my female SSUSA counterpart on the course all day, stronger than me, and doing it solo, shamed me enough for an entire season. Great job guys!
Thanks to all my sponsors. White Brothers had rebuilt my Magic 29er fork right before this event, and it was dialed in right out of the box. Many thanks to Eric at WB for his rushed work to get the thing back to me. I also finally got to run my Kenda small block eights on the great hardpack fast course later in the afternoon. For those conditions, they felt great. No flats, rolled into the corners and just stuck there. Jeff also hooked me up with new pair of Ergon GX1s. I've been waiting for GX2s all year, but they are in high demand, so I ran the barendless GX1s for both SSUSA and DSG, and didn't have any hand or shoulder issues, and I even ran SSUSA rigid, so I think that speaks volumes on a pretty rocky course. Spin also hooked me up with a new Specialized S-works helmet, which withstood the SSUSA joust beatings and was light as a feather all day saturday. Bet they didn't have that kind of weekend in mind when they designed it.
Also, I stole all these pics from the Dirt Sweat and Gears website, they have a great slide show for each event, lots of fun captured forever. Go enjoy them and wish you were there.