I guess there is a first time for everything. First time riding a bike, first time racing...first time winning, first time losing...but I have never, ever in my life quit in a mountain bike race like I did in the Cowbell. Everything was going perfectly as planned. Arrived the night before and I had the wifey and child there to help out in the pit, excellent nights sleep at the Homewood suites the night before...I even had our pit tent already setup on Friday. Although my preride of the course should have been an indicator of the problems I would be facing on Saturday, I was too excited with the idea of my first SS marathon. Did I mention I busted a spoke during that preride? bad omen?....
So, Saturday morning comes like a typical race morning usually does come, fast and blurry. Before we knew it, we were driving from our hotel out to Fisher Farms 10 minutes behind schedule...Justin was waiting to get his numberplate from me and was ready to go...I was slapping stuff on and noticing all the madness going on around me...It was an awesome turnout! Pros in attendance were Harlan Price, Dejay Birtch, John "Fuzzy" Milnes, Dave Hall, Rich Dillen(Team Dicky)...So with all this madness going on I start to realize it is only 9am and the heat is already off the charts! We finally get shuttled into town and the race starts. The first part of the race has us flying through town for about 6.5 miles along backroads and greenways and all you hear are the townspeople ringing cowbells which is really neat! Spinning like a madman, I start to find my pedaling start/stop points since the rolling hills give me some needed momentum. Finally we arrive at Fisher Farms via the back entrance which corrals us over the hardest of the 2 ending loop climbs right from the start....immediately a bottleneck occurs and geared riders all around me start dropping straight into their granny gears...i only make it halfway up the hill climbing since there is too much traffic in front of me and immediately unclip and start running my bike up through spinny gearies...I make it up the climb and out of the woods in good shape, but right before you cross through the starting checkpoint, you have to pass through the Kudzu corridor...I have never realized just how much heat kudzu traps, but it is similar to laying out in 100+ degree weather on top of aluminum foil...radiant, pulsing heat. It just takes the fight right out of you. I get bottlenecked again and jump off and start running my bike up and out of the kudzu...My body at this point is pouring sweat out by the gallons trying to cool off and this is just entering the first lap! Not good.
Laps 1-3 are a blur...they went by smooth, hot and not that easy, but they did go by...Lots of twisty, turny rooty slippery singletrack. Twitch cramps waiting to happen everytime I slid across roots....deep gultches with skinny rail crossings....log piles everywhere, dropoff bridges, off camber singletrack, slippery grass turns, open field scortching heat, rock gardens, more rock gardens, slippery punchy climbs...you name it, this course had it...a true challenge....
Lap 3 saw me finally entering a zone, but something still did not feel right...my legs were still not altogether there and I was just not wanting to be there anymore...it really had me concerned. I roll back to the pit upon entering lap#4 and realize I am not alone...I hear many rumours of others quitting, such as Dejay Birtch, Rich Dillen and still many more who had not made it through lap 2...so I am thinking ok, I am not crazy or totally weak, this heat is insane! I relax, drink lots of water, load up with Perpetuum, endurolytes and another bottle of cold water on my back to drop my core temp down a bit and roll out for Deathmarch Lap 4. This lap hit me hard....I went out slow because I had just eaten a potato to see if it would help restore my system levels, but nothing was processing anymore...I spent more time in the switchback hanging off trees and trying to focus on the trail ahead that I knew, this would be it for me. It was nasty hot when entering the open fields and jungle heat emanated from the woods. There was no shelter to be found. I continued onwards conserving energy at all times. Everytime I saw a hill, I walked, switchbacks were taken with great care and my overall pace came to a crawl...So many riders were passed at this point who were keeled over with cramps and heat exhaustion, it started to look like a warzone. I saw EMS pulling a few riders out with IVs to rehydrate them. Upon passing through the final stretch of kudzu, I decided I would take a long break in the pits this time around before thinking of Lap 5.
Upon arriving at the pits, I saw someone there who surprised me entirely. Justin Fisher, who was sharing our pits, was zonked in a corner with a look of total confusion on his face. I knew immediately what happened. Heat exhaustion had hit him hard. I took this as the final sign. I got off my bike and started downing cold liquids. I sat there for about 10 minutes staring off into space deciding what I should do next...I then started to feel stiff. In a final fleeting moment of panic, I got up and decided to try and roll through lap 5. Justin thought if he tagged along behind me that he would find his legs again and hold his strong lead on his race class. It was weird having Justin trail me since he is usually miles in front of me, but I rode on through the technicals using reserve energy in spots I should not be using it, but my mind was not thinking clearly. I should not even be out here anymore. Justin yoyos back and forth catching up to me on flats and from my quick glances appears sluggish and not in total control. After about 2-3 miles, I ask Justin if he is feeling any better and he immediately replies loudly NO...I take that as the final marker and throw in the towel. I cut off the trail and decide for both of us that it is time to head back to camp. It is at this point that Dave Hall comes flying by pedaling with some insane determination to finish this lap. That was me getting pushed out of third place at the time...So I realize I won't even get a Cowbell for this effort and really decide to stop, drop and roll...Justin and I walk back to camp stunned by the amount of heat still smashing us in the face....We arrive, cool down and watch one rider after another stumble in. Because of the record 115 degree heat, DNFs were not recorded and places and times continued. This is great for me since I did not want a DNF on my records...but deep down inside, I gave up the fight...but only to be able to fight another day...8th place in my first Singlespeed marathon...better than dead last i guess...until next year...lessons learned...
2010 Events Schedule
- Nov 7: Swank 65 (Pisgah)
- Sep 18: Pedaling For Peanuts (TEAM) (6th place)
- Sep 14-18: Pisgah Stage Race (CANCELLED)
- July 25: ORAMM (Pisgah) (40 miles+ DNF)
- May 23: Catawba Riverfront Classic XC(4th SS)
- May 8: 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway (12th Mens Open)
- May 1: Tour de Cure (Little Mountain, SC) (CANCELLED)
- Apr 3: 6 Hours of Warrior Creek (12th Place SS)
- Mar 28: After Bridge Run Ride (82miles 3:58)
- Mar 27: Cooper River Bridge Run (58:00)
- Mar 6: Snake Creek Gap Time Trial#3 (4hrs 26min SS)
- Feb 20: 12 Hours of Santos (Ocala Florida) (5th Place SS)
- Feb 6: Snake Creek Gap Time Trial#2 (5hrs 11mins SS)
2009 Events Schedule
- Nov 8: Swank 65 (87th 5:46:06)
- Oct 10:Dirty Spokes 12hrs of Unicoi
- Sep 6: Shenandoah 100(cancelled)
- Aug 20: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #4 (32:43)
- Aug 15: Fools Gold 100 (50mile-10th SS- 5:43:00)
- Aug 6: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #3 (27:45)
- Jul 26: Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (7:49:00)
- Jul 23: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #2 (skipped)
- Jul 9: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #1 (22:00:00)
- Jun 20: Cowbell Challenge Marathon (8th SS)
- Jun 13: Tour de Cure Century (4hrs:45mins)
- Jun 7: Catawba Riverfront Classic (3rd SS)
- Apr 25: Cohutta 100 (cancelled)
- Apr 5: After Bridge Run Ride Century (cancelled)
- Apr 4: Charleston Bridge Run 10k (52:59)
- Feb 15:Myrtle Beach Marathon Bike Ride 63 miles (28th)
- Feb 21: 6 Hours of Santos (35th-Overall, ?? SingleSpeed)