Monday, April 5, 2010

The 6 Hour Battle of Warrior Creek...

That's what it felt like...A surging battle with hundreds of Indian brave warriors pressing forward....

I made my way up to Wilkesboro, NC for the second annual 6 Hours of Warrior Creek endurance race. This was a race which was not on the official calendar for the year, but just happened to occur and I just happened to obtain a free transfer entry into the event. I had been very curious about this trail since last year when a few of my close friends had started mentioning just how perfect these trails really were. I then mentioned the race to a few more of my cycling friends and they also agreed that Warrior creek was an excellent, fun course. Fun was definitely the main theme which I insisted on carrying forward as I did not know what to expect. I left late on Friday, made my way up to the Bandit's Roost campground and claimed my spot. After driving a few hundred miles and realizing I had forgotten my tent, I made a quick decision to sleep in the back of my zippy Prius. Meeting me there were Mark Sackett, Mike Pierce and super pitman: Nicolas Deloach. We meet and I start rallying everyone to jump into Mark's van to go preride the course. We finally find the course and quickly start pedaling away! The first entry point into the course was at the 2 mile mark and set the overall tone for the rest of the weekend: FUN! This course is unbelieveable! I immediately got swept up in huge banking turns with spread out sections full of pump bumps helping to keep the speed into various lines with little or no pedaling needed. This course truly was a giant BMX course. I could not believe some of the incredible features this course had to offer! So smooth and so fast and so tricky! The turns would sneak up on you and really smack you around if you were not ready for them. Off camber singletrack really kept your mind spinning and focusing on the singletrack. Good power climbs with well laid out switchbacks and rock gardens topped it all off. Saturday was going to be a great day for rolling in the woods! After getting a poor quality pre-ride dinner, talking about racing and our bikes, getting our bottles and stuff ready, we were all looking at 11pm and time to sleep. I made my bed in the Prius and feel asleep within minutes. Morning clambered in much too soon as I was really enjoying the perfect temperature and sounds of nature to get up and ready. But ready or not, it was time to race!

We break camp at 7am and eagerly make our way to Warrior Creek campground to start 6 good solid fun hours of rolling through the hills. upon arriving, we realize we have made good time and find a great spot in the cul-de-sac leading back out to the trail. The place is getting so packed that we find ourselves parked in front of the Team Ergon booth with the Odeas both getting ready to race. I get my Infinit-infused fluids and Honey Stinger chews and gels out and ready for a solid energy filled day and set off to see who else is here. I bump into Stephen Janes who I did not know was going to be there. He looks strong and ready to throw down some serious racing. I bump into Shanna Powell of Endless Bikes and get hooked up with a few collector's series spoke cards which will go on my everyday riding wheels until I can figure out how to keep them in place on my I9s. Shanna is riding some crazy rigid beast of a bike complete with a big toot horn on the front and streamers to set it all off nicely: the rolling epitome of keeping it fun on the trail! I see and talk with Mike Stanley of Niner bikes showing off the latest cool bike, the Jet 9(drool!). I catch a glimpse of superstar Team Dicky rider, Rich Dillen, but I am quickly pushed aside by either the paparazzi or maybe his team manager, Mike Piazza, has appointed bodyguards to keep the throngs of admirers and facebook stalkers at bay. Lots of familiar faces start to appear from the many endurance events we seem to congregate to year after year. I roll back to my pit and rest for a few minutes taking in all the lovely bikes rolling through the area. Its a good day for racing! As usual, the countdown to the race begins unexpectedly and I get into position for what appears to be one heck of a large mass start. My neutral start strategy places me lower midpack with Mike Pierce, Matt Depp, Allan Atkinson and a few other names I cannot recall alongside me. Mark Sackett is somewhere up front and hungry for a win today. The race starts and takes us up and down the paved streets of the campsite area. This rolling start attempts to spread us out into an orderly mob before entering the singletrack. It is really crowded all around me and I wonder if I will lose more energy riding like this or should I have been further up in the pack. Too late, as I enter the woods and hit that first bit of singletrack. Already there are guys huffing and puffing, blown out, from cruising too fast on the start paceline. The passing frenzy begins. Then ends as abruptly as it starts as there is simply nowhere to go. I stay in line and focus on an efficient, easy low level cadence to conserve energy. The banked turns and fun spots are fully packed with riders, fast and slow. I actually pass a guy on the high side of a banked turn because he kept slamming on the brakes and creeping through the fun turns. Walkers already on the climbs! Tip-toers on the rock gardens! This goes on throughout lap 1 and I arrive back at the pits ready to make up some lost time. I zoom through and Nicolas hands me a fresh water bottle. No time lost in the pits, I go forward entering back into the singletrack with a bit more lap traffic, but this time passing is possible. I start slowly making my way through it all using perceived exertion to stay aware of my bonk limit. My BMX skills really do come in handy here as I whip my 29'' Salsa Selma through the corners with precision which amazes me. I find a pace I like and start controlling my speed and energy levels for most of this lap. I turn in another decent lap, not strong, just decent. I go back out on lap 3 and start trying to assess when I can start opening up my legs which feel great thus far. I fall into line behind some crazy girl with a red tutu by the name of Shanna Powell and we talk for a while. She has the incredible ability to talk, ride and comment on other rider's fashions all while lofting crazy air off the whoop de doos. It was pretty cool just to be able to ride with new friends. I push ahead and find my pace is slightly stronger than I anticipated and tackle the climbs with ease and rock gardens with style and grace. I zoom back into the pits and rip off my noise making bike tool pack. I decide that I am going to have to invest in one of those Awesome straps when I get back home. For now, duct tape was the answer to hold my tube on the frame. Lap 4 was more of the same as lap 3, legs felt great but not super powerful. I felt a little fade, but was able to work through it with no cramps the entire time. I cleaned the climbs once again and was excited that Lap 5 was almost upon me. As I enter the pits, I realized this would be my last lap since the time cutoff was 3:30, so I took a quick break, ate some food, and set back out on my final lap. This lap had me hot and cold throughout. My legs would fade and my body would weaken with no signs of cramping, just weakness. I kept thinking about what I was missing....Fluids, electrolytes, food...hmmm, maybe I just need more sugars...I stopped and propped myself against a tree and slurped down a chocolate Honey Stinger gel washed down with water, which I thought would have sent me into cramp mode, but instead seemed to do nothing, at first. After about 5 minutes of continued slow speed slogging, I started to come out of my slump. I began to pick up my pace and then like Contador passing Lance on the Swiss Alps, I was back to dancing on the pedals again! I started picking off a ton of riders who were struggling, suffering or both. I pass a rider who appears to have flatted out and roll by only to hear him ask me for a tube. I actually was in the process of chasing down one last singlespeeder who had passed me earlier and did not really wanna stop, but being the nice guy I am, I quickly stop, rip the tube off my frame and give it to him and wish him good luck(I later find out that he was 2nd in men's open and would not have placed at all if it were not for the tube I gave him). As I proceed onwards, I track down the singlespeeder who had passed me when I took my Honey Stinger gel break. His legs had shut down and he was walking the climbs. I punch forward and pass him in a full standup climb up the last remaining climbs to seal the deal. I roll through the rock gardens for the last time and call it a day with Lap#5 in the bank. My legs felt weak, but a 6th lap would have been possible. It was a good day to play in the woods!

We broke down the pit area in a mad dash to get to the lodge for the awards ceremony. Mark Sackett placed 5th! That is one strong finish for a group as powerful as I had witnessed today. Mike Pierce had a long hard day in the saddle and left early. I came in 12th in Singlespeed and felt great to have energy on reserve after such a long day throwing the bike around those turns. Shanna got 1st in women's SS which was much deserved after witnessing the beating she was taking on that aluminum rigid beastie. Raffle prizes were awarded and I actually won an Awesome Strap! After eating some great BBQ & beans and saying my goodbyes to friends both new and old, I jumped in the Prius and set out for home to get some Easter family time in...What a Saturday!

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