Monday, March 8, 2010

Snake Creek Gap #3

After my last experience at Snake Creek Gap, I was not too enthusiastic to return to Dalton and give it another go, but with the promise of nice weather and the option to carpool, I made the solid decision to return and face the Snake once again....

It was a smooth ride up to Dalton until we decided to listen to my Garmin Nuvi GPS which siderailed us with a 1.5 hour delay because of poor alternate routing...Once in Dalton, everything was once again under control and relaxed. Matt McMaster and I met up with Mark Sackett, Mike Pierce and some friends from Charleston, Ken Privette and Mike Wagers who were there for their first battle with the Snake...During dinner we shared information on how to handle the mountains all the while thinking of how we were going to ride it ourselves. I went up with a plan to keep it slow for the first 20 miles and then increase my power output incrementally. I stuck with the plan and did not deviate as I had also had similar advice from Dave Hall in regards to how to tackle this 34 miles of trail. My friends weren't so sure it was the best plan, but it was my plan and I wanted to try and stick to something which has been working well for me lately. After a great night's sleep at the Quality Inn, we went down and had some free breakfast and hit the road. Upon arrival for registration, the weather was already looking positively better. I was still cold and had several layers on, but not as many as in February. After some chatting around the fire and loading up our bikes on the transport trailers, we hopped in the big bus and rolled upwards towards our 34 mile destination...No sooner had we gotten comfortably numb on the bus, we were dumped out and made ready to ride....Not wanting to stand around and wait for my legs to start tightening up, I quickly jumped in the takeoff line and before I knew it, I had started my challenge on Snake Creek Gap once again!

I felt a bit mentally cloudy and not yet entirely responsive...but some quick climbs and rapid downward acceleration made sure I was in the game for now... After a few miles, I noticed my tire pressure was too high and my new I9 wheels were definitely stiffer than my old ones...I also think I may have used the wrong tire for the current condition of the trail as it was loose and sandy, nothing like the conditions in February. Cruising along on a open fireroad climb, I come across Mike Wagers who had the deer in the headlights look in his eyes...been there, felt that-not a good feeling...I arrive at the dreaded raging creek of doom and discover that it is a little less than knee deep and pull a wicked wheelie and charge right through it. I come out fairly dry with nothing soaked at all! I continue onwards and keep picking my way through early casualty traffic, always checking my speed and keeping a steady pace...I come up on Ken Privette who is hunched over, grunting, and pedaling like a man on a mission. I mutter something positive to him and continue onwards. I reach the 10 mile mark and clean lots of climbs I had previously walked up. I find a few that I still had to walk on, but most of my walking time was spent running up those climbs to keep my time low. My plan was working well and I was well and working. Upon hitting mile 15, something seem to have messed up the strike plate underneath my shoe cleat and it would no longer engage in the right pedal. I did not want to stop, so I kept pedaling along trying to think of what to do. After doing a fast and messy one footed descent at mile 17, I decided to pull over into the woods and fix my cleat properly. Tools were pulled out, cleat was removed, faulty strike plate was removed and disposed of. All parts reassembled and I was back under way, but with a massive time loss. Matt caught up to me while working on my show and he looked strong. Shortly thereafter, Mark came flying by trailing Namrita Odea who seemed to be having a stellar day. I really wanted to keep up with everyone, but my plan was to keep it slow for a few more miles and on top of that, my legs were cold again from the maintenance stop. I got back into a rhythm and just kept cruising along focusing on the ride and the scenery....After a few more miles, I ran back into Matt who was having some possible hydration issues with severe onset of cramping. I urged him to eat and drink and pace himself for awhile which he did, but shortly caught back up with me. For a while, he was moving along and seemed to be having a good recovery. I reached my first planned destination which is the 21 mile gravel road climb which meant I was "allowed" to increase my attack speed a little based on my overall feeling. I felt great, so I started a nice tempo climb up the gravel road passing a few geared riders along the way. After a few minutes of this, I mentioned to Matt how nice this climb is when the weather is right, but heard nothing behind me. I looked back to realize I had dropped Matt never to see him again until after the race. I knew what had happened as it has happened to me several times in the past. Matt's cramps onset and then returned much harder than before, not allowing even the slightest pedaling to occur. I pedaled onward pushing those thoughts of him suffering out of my head just wanting to keep myself together for the next 10 miles...I rode onwards at a nice clip, playing in the switchbacks, taking on the rock gardens whenever safely possible and passing lots and lots of riders cramping and near cramping in the woods. I started to push myself harder only to find out I did not have a lot to give at once, so I eased up a little and then held on to whatever cadence I had. I would attack climbs, and hug the closest tree near the top of each one for about 30 seconds to recover and then move forward. I did this for the next few miles pulling myself off trees and hugging them to hold me while my heartrate was back under control. I trudged onwards until I saw the 4 mile mark at which point I started pedaling like a madman! I ran up climbs which I could not pedal up and quickly worked my way through lots of small rock gardens and tight singletrack. The descents worked my arms and the neverending 4 miles of trail left worked on my mind. I kept looking for the radio tower on the mountain which meant the race had only 2 more miles to go, but it would not come up! After some major frustration and some near falls on the sharp rocks, the radio tower appeared and the rest of the way was sprint history for me. I worked as hard as possible knowing I could rest on the downhill return on the highway. I hit 40 mph on the downhill straights and really felt glad to have finished.

Upon arriving, I jumped in line for food, water and sat back in the nice warm sun and soaked it all in. What a well organized event! Great volunteers, very nice and approachable. The crowd at the end was thick with talent all having completed their time trials in much less time for certain. I received my results with a time of 4hrs:26mins and deducted my previous time was 45 minutes longer than this time around. I felt great about the improvement and just smiled for the rest of the day....its good to have closure.

Cheers to Matt McMaster for a great ride although he worked much harder this time around... Hang in there Matt, its good to learn this stuff early in the season.
Cheers to Mark Sackett for another consistent result time. Man, you are getting STRONG!
Cheers to Mike Pierce for a good solid ride with only a rear brake! INSANE!
Cheers to Ken Privette for entering and completing his first Snake Creek Gap Time Trial...
Honorable Mention to Mike Wagers for attempting the Snake...some more offroad time in the saddle will transform you into a mountain loving kinda guy, my friend...don't give it up!


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