Monday, August 17, 2009

Fools Gold 2009

In a nutshell, Fool's Gold was a lot of "fun" for an endurance race...

To better define an "endurance race" as "fun", it would be better to add descriptors like: pain, intense, excruciating, anguish, fear, suspense, pain, dehydration, nauseous, excitement, speed, hiking, loss of hope, optimism, stubborn tenacity, and more pain...

This race hurt bad....I do believe Dahlonega Georgia has some of the tougher mountain bike trails out there...Bull Mountain to be lower insides still hurt!

I rode up to Ga with Dave Hall of Terrapin Beer and found ourselves arriving early on Friday with some time to pre-ride the course...It turned out to be quite a wakeup call for me since I was not expecting such tough climbs...33x21 seems too tall now, but I stuck to my choice. The first ascent up Bull Mtn was kind of like a water runoff line going down the mountain with just enough of an edge to dig into with lots of roots and rocks thrown in for a good challenge. I found it immediately impossible to keep my heartrate down and just redlined it all the way up stopping to catch my breath at the top. Dave had charged way ahead of me and falls back to see where I am at and asks if I was also having trouble keeping my heartrate down and we both conclude that this is some pretty relentless climbing...After 10 miles, I finally find my legs and we wrap up 10 more miles including some great rolling singletrack, calling it a day..good fun stuff..

After an excellent night's feast and wonderful quarters as a guest of the Hall residence, 5 am arrives and it is time to race the 50 miler...Of course, this is when everything happens so fast that your head starts to spin, so before I knew it, I was suited up, energized, and sitting in a large pack of racers ready to do the challenge...I roll up to the pack with Mark Sackett and we soon find Stephen Janes awaiting nervously for the start. The 100 milers had just taken off and we were up next. After some chatter, we hear 3-2-1 GO! We are off like a bunch of frantic bees trying to find a way out of the grassy start field...Immediately, there is a crash right before the grass meets the gravel and holds up a massive pile of riders behind...After some joking and anticipation, we are off and rolling up the primary gravel road...I "switch on race mode" and start finding a spot in the crowd to settle into my pace...I am soo far in back and notice their pace is so much slower than mine, so I spin up further and after about 50 or more riders passed, I find a nice open spot to settle into. I start focusing on heartrate and a relaxed cadence. Pedal, drink, far, so good. I find the first hour climb to start getting steeper and steeper. I finally adjust my pedal stroke and start to standup climb...Man, this hurts! Estimating the climb to be about 5 miles, I start to fall into a zone. I look back and realize there is noone behind me for quite a ways, so I ease back on the energy output and try to focus on conserving. It was too quiet for too long...all of a sudden Mark comes up beside me and says hey Joel! Surprised, I lose my momentum for a moment, but realize many others are closing in on me...Mark and I pull ahead and simply ride along smoothly uphill for a mile or so. I get bored and frustrated with a few gearies passing by so fast, that I fall in behind them and start trying to draft them. This works for a good while and I end up lowering my heartrate as well. We arrive at some downhill sections and start flying along with some full suspension gearies buzzing right past me.. I always play it a bit more held back on downhill gravel road descents. SAG#1 is fast and I switch bottles out and blaze stop time:20 seconds. We enter some tight, twisty, fast singletrack and I open it up and quickly gain positions on more than 4 gearies in the woods. My bike is meant for exactly this kind of terrain and I find myself finally having some fun! It is around this point in time I realize I am finally racing, and not just trying to survive an endurance race. Mark is a daredevil and entered the woods ahead of me, but I track right up on him in the singletrack and we end up riding back and forth like this for about 20 miles...I skip SAG #2 charge up Bull Mtn exactly like yesterday's preride. This is where the music stops and the record scratches because my wonderful legs just decided to go on an abrupt strike. It was totally my fault. I started conserving water after skipping SAG#2, but forgot to eat entirely and started making up for that mistake too late in the game I believe. I physically stopped, popped some endurolytes, washed it down with water, and started walking to flush out the legs, but the pain kept my legs twanging like banjo strings. Every wrong move up a climb at this point had me encountering a new muscle group in my legs. After giving the salt a chance to get me out of my rut, I switched to Honey Stinger Gels...wonderful product. These little shots of natural sugars, really kicked in and helped bring me back to life, but the bursts were short and I was really forcing my legs to give me more, not to mention, that the climbs at Fool's Gold were relentless and unforgiving. I ended up bonking and entirely considering giving up more than once. I switched out bottles at SAG#4 and trudged my bike up the loop thereafter. I definitely walked/hiked a lot on this section since the climb was so unbelieveably steep and rocky...At the 40 mile marker, I reached deep into my head convinced my body that I was almost done. Somehow, I was able to mount my saddle again and start pedaling over all the climbs which presented themselves on the way to the finish...48 miles in I was flying along legs back to normal and excited that I was going to finish this race...52 miles later, I was deliriously happy to be crossing a creek at Camp Wahsega realizing it was all over. Finishers received a bar of personal travel soap from Sudstress which I put to use shortly thereafter!

My official GPS trip time was 5:46.25. Overall, I am very happy with my results and see a large amount of improvement in time next year since I "plan" on doing the 100 miler... Unfortunately, that is all I have in terms of placement results since the official results people at this event very not organized at all. Surprisingly, only top 3 in all categories received awards/mention, WHAT? Too bad for them since I was not the only one disappointed by this glaring omission in results feedback which does not fall well within expectations when based on a unusually high entry fee...Hopefully they will get their systems together by next year...or the quote "A fool and his money are soon parted" will ring more true than ever @ Fool's Gold

Nonetheless, BIG thanks to Terrapin and Sweetwater for all the beer I could possibly drown in after this mentally exhausting event. Thanks to the event promoters in charge of nutrition, as there was great food available throughout the day! Delicious subs and tons of high-end pasta!

Congratulations to Dave Hall on the 5th place finish...(MTB Race news mentioned top 5)

Congratulations to Stephen Janes for kicking it into high-gear and making it through the 50 miler!

Congratulations to Mark Sackett for building a rigid singlespeed beast the week before the event just to race against me and kick my butt...That was too much fun man!


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