Last weekend I made the trip to Beech Mountain to try my luck at the next round of the UltraCross series. I am not sure exactly what made me to decide to sign up for this race, but for some reason I did. it was a long trip and the plan was to head down and get in a ride on Saturday. The rain had a different plan. We had nothing but rain the whole way there and most of the night. It was nice to relax and after not riding a bike for two weeks, I am not sure how much good a ride would have done me.
It was foggy and cold Sunday morning. I was not sure what to wear. I thought I had it figured out and changed my mind last minute before heading up the hill. Once we got up there I second guessed my choices since it was so cold. I put on a little more than I planned, but didn’t go too far overboard. As the day went on, I was very glad I didn’t put on any more than I did, because I was too warm for most of the ride. There were some cool section, but overall I was plenty warm.
What can I say about the race? Well, that is hard. Overall I would say it was exactly what I should have expected. I knew there would be a lot of climbing and I knew how some climbs are in some areas around there. It just didn’t sink in until I was climbing up the first road climb. I was way in the back of the pack, but I was not in a position to try and move up the pack. I was more worried about finishing the day.
The legs didn’t feel too bad when I finally made it to the top and started to head back down. I would make up time on the down hills and trail sections. I would loose some time on the climbs if the people on CX bikes were riding. Once they had to walk, I would hold my own or make up some time since I had a smaller gear to keep me rolling. The road down hill was a little scary. I went as fast as I felt I could slow down enough to make the switchback corners. Eventually we hit a flatter section of road and I found a fast woman to help pull me along. We joined up with another guy and the three of us worked together for a while. We broke up when we hit the creek crossing and trail section.
The trail was pretty muddy with all the rain the day before. The 42’s were rolling pretty good and keeping enough traction. I didn’t worry about my shoes getting wet on the creek crossing and it is a good thing too. A few of the mud puddles were deep enough that my shoes got wet anyway. Once I hit the road again, it was time to climb. The road climb was pretty steep and went on for a while. I figured for sure that was the second peak and that would only leave the final climb to the resort for the third peak. Not long after this climb, I rolled in to the second rest area.
The next section I could see the leaders rolling back to hit the rest area again. That meant they had 10 miles on me. Not what I really wanted to know, but it really didn’t shock me. There were a few good hills in the next section. I figured there would be, but what I didn’t figure on was the gravel road climb that just went on and on. I could not believe how much climbing I was doing on this gravel road. Then to top it off, I hit the top and there was a trail section that climbed even more and more and more. I guess this was actually the second peak, but it felt like the third peak in my book. This hill hurt and I started to feel the effort. I just kept moving and soon enough I was back at the rest stop. From here it was a good down hill and then a 10 mile climb that was going to net out about 2400 feet of elevation.
The first part was wearing me out, but I managed to keep moving. I was going pretty slow at this point for most sections, but I was really starting to feel the efforts from the day. I was at the rest stop in just over 4 hours. I was pretty happy with this and thought that I might be able to get close to a 5 hour time. Not too much farther up the hill I began to hope that I could finish in a 7 hour time with my current pace. I was fighting off some cramps, but not too bad. I was hurting really back and not feeling good. I had to walk a lot of tough sections from here on out. Just about everyone who I had passed all day came riding by again. They all said they were hurting, but it looked a little different to me as they pulled away.
I had to walk way too much in this section, but I finally saw the wind mills at the top of the hill and I knew the finish was just around the corner. I was completely spent and had nothing left. But, I am happy that I finished and didn’t try to pull out. I admit that if someone would have offered to give me a ride, I would have gladly took them up on it. It is a good thing that no one asked. That third peak was miserable. I have no idea how I continued to keep moving. It took me 2 1/2 hours to ride the last 12 miles. That is just pathetic.
Will I go back next year or at some other time? Right now I just don’t know. I am sure I could do a lot better if I had been still riding the last month and a half. I would not be fast enough to keep up with the leaders, but I am sure I could take a lot of time off. But it was not all a lost. I did learn something. If I am going to ride 55 miles and be on a bike for over 4 hours, I really need to eat more. For the 6.5 hours I only ate two packages of gummy chews, two gels and a bottle of G2. Yea, that was probably not enough. I just hope I can learn from that mistake and do a better job eating for the Gravel Grovel.