This was the second year that I made the trip down to Dalton to race The Snake. This year was the first time that I was going to race the same distance both times. If you read my last post, then you know that the first race was shortened because of the weather. But, anyone who finished would get credit for finishing the race in their class. Last weekend I headed back for the second race in the series. The good news was that the weather was supposed to be a lot nicer than the first race. Not just less ice and snow that we could actually race the full distance, it was going to be pretty nice.
One problem with the weather being nicer is that I had been riding in colder weather and not used to knowing what to put on. I am not very good about keeping track of what I am wearing per how the weather is. I had a new kit that I really wanted to wear. Another issue I was having was that this new kit looked like the jersey was a little thinner than what the old ones were. This makes it hard to know how much difference it would make. With the start being at a different parking lot then the finish, I also had to try and make some decisions before we left. I made some last minute changes of putting on a second under shirt. I also put on knee and arm warmers.
Once we got to the start we unloaded and started to get ready. The stress was a little high as expected. This was going to be a big day and a lot of things can happen. Just when I thought I was ready and getting ready to roll around a little, my first complication of the day showed up. I was a little rushed at the hotel and I could not take care of all of my pre-race prep. Normally this is just an inconvenience, but looking at the bathroom line it was a lot more than just an inconvenience. So, I make a quick decision to head to the woods. As I roll up to the jeep, something happens and I land on my seat a little hard and pop, the seat moves. Great!!! So, I dug around trying to get the tools needed and then leveled the seat out. So, back to the last task at hand…………..
I then rushed back to the jeep and headed to the start line. I saw some of my group and worked my way up to them and hung out waiting for my place in line to be started. Soon enough I was shuffled up to the guy yelling out race numbers to the time keeper. He says go and then says wait. I was like what?? am I supposed to go or what? The timing guy said go ahead. I joked that there when 3 finish spots. Like I really thought it would matter.
Off I go in to this new trail section that I have not rode before. it was supposed to be nice and flowy, so I did not want to get too carried away and over do the first 17 miles as the next 34 would be tough enough with out blowing myself up. It didn’t take long before I found myself behind Abby from Wood-N-wave who I met the night before. It felt like I was going too slow, but I figured that was just me being too pumped up. So, I made sure and just sat there for a little while. Eventually I made my way by and said good luck.
Not too far down the trail I found myself coming up on Hutch and a train of riders. As we worked past a couple people we found ourselves rolling up on Team People’s bearded powerhouse and Kayla (She Shreds) in front of him. If I was catching him, I figured I was starting way too hard. Then I could tell he was really trying to pace himself so he didn’t over do it in this section too. So, maybe I was not doing too bad. Eventually he pulled away and Kayla ended up behind us. We stayed that way for a little while with a few other riders in tow. Hutch was setting an awesome pace. I figured that she was going to have a finishing time that I would be very happy with, so there was no need to pass her. I figured any extra effort that she was not putting in would only hurt me later.
We rode this way for a while. There was a little time that I did end up in front and went back and forth with a few of the other riders in the pack. As we went up the big climb before the Snake Creek gap parking lot, the legs felt like they were going to cramp. I backed the pack off hoping to keep that from happening and she rolled away from me. I came in to the parking lot rest area hurting pretty good. It was not easy to roll past the unsanctioned rest stop that had beer and whisky. I figured a beer would make my day end up badly. I rolled over to the sag tent and grabbed everything I felt I needed. I ate some Cliff products that were being handed out. I topped off my bottles and took off up the very long climb before my legs decided to take a break.
I took it easy up the hill as I knew it was a long one and with my legs feeling heaving I really didn’t want to cramp. i saw some more familiar faces as they passed me, but I did’t panic and just did what I felt I needed to. My bail out gear on my 1×11 is really nice for some things, but when I am in it I go pretty slow. Maybe shifting in to a bigger gear would have been good, but I will never know. When I did get to the top of the climb and started the next section the legs started to feel better. I had some highs and lows for this part all the way up to the water stop at the top of the road climb. I downed some mustard and went on my way.
I did pretty well for the next section. Legs were feeling better and it allowed my to ride a lot of the rock sections. I just tried to keep moving, eating and drinking. It is crazy, but I kept wishing the wall was around the next corner. I really didn’t want to go up it, but I was ready to get it over with. Eventually the wall came and I started walking. With the legs wanting to cramp and also being wore out, I didn’t ride as much as I did before. After what seemed like 3 hours I thought I was finally over the wall. I thought at this point that I had a little rock section to go and then the radio tower would be there soon enough. Well, this little bit really dragged on for every. I didn’t remember there being that much after the wall. Part of the issue could be that at this point, my legs were locking up and keeping me from doing much. The cramps would come and go. When I could ride, I felt like I was still moving pretty well, but when my legs were locked up I was a snail.
Eventually I saw the radio tower. I could not have been happier. I knew it was all down hill from here. I dropped the hammer the best I could and let it rip on the down hills and made fairly short work of the last section. As I came around the corner and saw the finish line tent, I was ecstatic. I safely made the turn in to the parking lot and here was the group cheering me on. Jeff yelled for me to do a wheelie and even with my legs about ready to fall off, the next thing I know I was pulling up to ride one. Riding a wheelie at the finish line can be tricky. It is even harder after putting in the effort that I had to put in to get this far. I didn’t want to pull up crooked or if I did pull it up straight, I didn’t want to loop out. I was very happy when I pulled up an perfect wheelie and rode it way longer than I thought I had the energy for. I think this was one of things in the ride that I was the most happy about. Very little beats a good finish line wheelie.
I rolled across the line in 6:13 and ended up finishing in 15th place in the 40-49 class . My goal was to finish in 6 hours. I was not really thinking that I could get to 6 or even under so I really am happy with my time. But that does not mean that I don’t keep thinking what if. I am super happy with the first 4 hours of the race. After that is where I started to put more effort in being able to finish as strong as I could and not just riding/racing. Typically I am the blame for my cramps or issues. I have a bad habit of not eating or drinking enough. Maybe I still didn’t do enough of either or both, but I felt like I was doing a good job of taking in enough.
After thinking about it a little, I think maybe my issue was just not training hard enough. The cramps were along the inside of my thigh. I am not used to having cramps there as they are normally the calves or the hamstrings. I think all of the standing and pumping I did trying to ride everything was using muscles that I didn’t work out enough before. Too many of my miles were put in riding gravel and not enough actual mtb riding where I need to stand up. I may be way off on this, but it seems to make some sense to me.
After the race we all headed to Cherokee Brewing for some awesome pizza and beer. Good times were had and we even helped a local named Eric celebrate his birthday and he shared his cake with us. It was interesting to say the least, but we had a great time. I would recommend checking that place out if you are in the area. We moved the after party back to the hotel and continued to have a lot of laughs and good times. I keep saying that the hanging out before/after the actual race is why I keep coming back. it just makes the trip all worth it. Laughter is good for the soul and with this group it is easy to come by.
I though it was just the beer talking, but apparently all the talk about riding the next day was really a thing. The next morning I was still a little in denial about the fact that we were really going to go ride. I didn’t get near enough sleep, but I was up and moving like it or not. We loaded up and headed to Booker T State park. We met up with the girls and we all went for a ride. I was very tired, but was riding better than I thought I would. It didn’t take time before the climbs were getting slower, but I was still going. The weather was over 70 degrees in February, so how could I not be out riding. The only bad thing about it was that it made the drive home seem longer than normal.
I want to thank the staff that puts on this race every year. There are a lot of people that put in a lot of hard work . I also want to thank everyone who helped make this weekend work out as good as it did and as fun as it was. Phil at Adventure’s Recreation for helping me get my Scott Scale. This bike is a blast to ride and much lighter than what I was riding. Thanks to ESI Grips for having the best grips on the market. Stan’s NoTubes for helping me keep from having a flat tire with all of the rocks I bounced off of all day. Honey Stinger for helping keep me fueled up with some great tasting energy products. Handup Gloves for keeping my hand happy. I want to thank my wife for all the hard work she has to do while I am gone for the weekend racing and while I am out putting in all of my training rides. She pushes me to get out and keep getting better. I can not ask for a better support team. And of course I have to thank my travel partners. With out you I would have to laugh at my own jokes and we all know that is not a good thing.
Sorry for the book. See you next time 🙂