x-post from passion
Bee in your butt. Put a bee in your butt….Does anyone else remember that godawful 1980's "song" by Eddie Murphy? I don't remember any of the other words but the refrain seemed to be an oddly appropriate anthem for my race this past weekend.
Sunday was the 5th annual (2nd annual for me) Off-road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (ORMM) - a psycho race with 55 miles and ~12,000' of climbing on what seems like every mtb trail in Pisgah Nat'l Forest. I did this race last year and it was by far the hardest thing I've ever done on 2 wheels. In fact, it may be the hardest thing I've ever done, period! The race took me over 9 hrs last year and I'm pretty sure that the only reason I finished was because I still had enough brain cells functioning for me to know that if I didn't finish I'd die in the woods and I didn't want to die in the woods. As I came across the finish line I announced to anyone who was listening "I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!!!"
Well, call me a big liar! Within a week of last year's race I was already planning on how I would do it better this year.
A few lessons learned from last year:
1. NEVER, EVER ride to a race. Even if it is only 3 miles. Those 3 miles are gaurenteed to come back and bite you in the @ss (assuming nothing else gets to it first). This year we wisely drove to the start.
2. When 12,000' of climbing is involved, carrying less is more. There is absolutely no reason to carry a water bottle, 100 oz of water & every tool you own (including a shock pump…..well, you never know…right?) to ride 55 miles up hill when there is a SAG stop every 10 miles. Minimalism is key.
3. No one should ever spend 9 consecutive hours riding a bike. It is just wrong and should not be done. Accordingly, my goal was to cut 2 hrs off last year's time.
I selected the ORMM to be one of my 'A' races for this year and have trained accordingly. After a spate of DNF's in my last few races I was ready to redeem myself with a [email protected]
performance. I had every detail planned. What I would eat. When I would eat. What I would send to each of the SAGs. What I would wear. What I would carry, and more importantly, what I wouldn't carry!
My training plan got derailed slightly when after my last abysmal DNF at Fontana I went to the doc and discovered that my lack of energy stemmed from anemia. But despite this minor glitch (mmmm….steak!) I had high hopes for a top 5 finish.
Fast fwd to Sunday morning. We arrive at the race site to be confronted with a mob of humanity on mtbs. Wow! Where as last year we rolled out with approximately 75 like-minded lunatics (and a field of 8 women) apparently this year word had gotten out to the lunatic community and the field had more than doubled to approximately 200 like-minded loonies (196 to be exact) and a very strong group of approximately 15-20 women. Hmph! I had my work cut out for me.
oooh....work....but a good kind of work
Last minute disasters: my plan to carry 2 waterbottles in a cage attached to my saddle turned out to be a bad idea when I realized that with 2 bottles back there I would not be able to get back off my saddle. Ack! Should have thought of this yesterday! Off came the cage and I went begging for a camelbak to borrow (thanks Lauren!!). Ugh. Too much to do! Must get dressed. Must register. Must drop off my bags for each of the SAGs. Where are my gloves? Oh, here they are. Helmet? Glasses? Use asthma pump. Have gu? Sh!t! everyone's lining up. Well, I guess no warm up. That's ok, the first 3 miles are neutral anyway. I'll just use that as my warm up.
Lined up…..and we start to roll. 3 miles out of town on pavement. My back tire feels like it has suction cups rather than knobbies as I roll along the road. I stick to the middle-back of the front group. Trying to keep my HR down while not losing contact with a good draft. Sheesh, it feels like my back brake is dragging. Am I just destined to be plagued with brake issues?! No, it's just the tire. Man, this thing rolls poorly on pavement.
A right turn. A sharp left, and we are at the base of Kitsuma. All hell breaks loose. The road narrows to dirt double-track and then immediately to singletrack. Too many people. Too little space. It's like the downtown connector on a Friday before a holiday weekend. Although this section of trail is rideable (unlike some of the trail to come) with a mass of humanity packed in we are all forced to get off and walk. From behind me: 'MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!! GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL!!' uh, and go where? I get on my bike and start to pedal only to be pushed aside by someone running. Grrrrr. 'CHILL OUT!!' Sheesh, we're mid-pack. Anyone stuck in this chaos isn't in the running for first place anyway. Relax.
Holy cow, I walk slowly!! The crowd begins to thin as the trail gets steeper. I ride when I can and hike the rest. My HR is way too high when I walk. But, riding I'm efficient and much faster - dropping the walkers and riders behind me.
The conditions are wet but not too bad. My suction-cup rear tire hooks up beautifully and I no longer feel like my brakes are dragging.
random pretty pisgah pic.....from a different trip
Up along the ridgeline of Kitsuma the trail is rolling. It's a relief to be on the bike rather than hiking. I pass a few people as I begin my descent. I roll smoothly through each of my nemeses - switchbacks - cleaning every one of them. I'm at the bottom of Kitsuma and on the road down to the first SAG. Once again the suction-cup tire glues itself to the pavement. I get passed by 2 guys but keep them in my sight. Then one of the girls I passed near the top of Kitsuma comes by and says "I wish I could descend like you!!" Uh, thanks! I'm flattered and surprised since I consider myself to be a painfully slow descender. But sure enough, once we go from pavement to dirt I pass her.
I roll into the first SAG, refill my bottle, eat another gel to bring my calorie consumption for the first hour up to 300 kcal, and am off. It is 1:15 into the race. I am feeling warmed up and ready to face the next 6-ish hours.
Along the fireroad, over the RR tracks, and back onto singletrack at the bottom of Heartbreak Ridge. A series of switchbacks will take me up to the midway point on this climb and then I will cut over to Star Gap. Star Gap is overgrown, rolling doubletrack with stunning views (if it is clear….which it is not),
stunning view....that no one saw
and a chance to stretch the legs and get into a pedaling rhythm that the steep climbing switchbacks before it do not allow. Star Gap will drop down to the 2nd SAG and the bottom of the 10 mile climb up Curtis Creek Rd. I'm looking forward to Curtis Creek Rd. All the road training I've done in the mtns should pay off there and it will be my chance to pass many of the people who walk faster up hills than I do.
On the lower part of Heartbreak I ride between switchbacks and hike through the corners. I can see the people ahead of and behind me doing the same. Each switchback is steep and slick with Carolina clay.
I'm at a steep, unrideable section pushing, when suddenly OWOWOWOWOWOWOW!! sonofa*%#!$%&** OWWWWWW! Some evil stinging thing (most likely a yellow jacket or maybe a hornet),
blindsides me, comes from behind and WHAM! nails me in the (left) @ss! (Enter Eddie Murphy: "Bee in your butt. Put a bee in your butt…")
mean little mo-fo
Unfortunately, I'm allergic to insect stings. I carry an epi pen but my first reaction is to panic. I panic for a few seconds and then pull myself together. My race is over. There is a clearing right near me and I move off the trail. A course martial is sitting in the clearing. People stop to see if I am ok. I explain that I have been stung and I am allergic. I reach into my camelbak, pull out my epi pen and sit down on a log. People stop to see if they can help. For those of you who have never had to use an epi pen, let me tell you it SUCKS!! The epi pen has a dose of epinephrine which will last about 30 minutes and is designed to prevent an anaphalaxis reaction. The epi must be injected intramuscularly (usually into the outer thigh) and the pen has a needle that works on a spring action. It requires that you hold the pen in your fist needle-end facing toward your thigh, swing your arm back, and whack yourself with the tip of the pen which releases the needle into your leg. Needless to say, it hurts like a …..well, it hurts a lot.
As I am counting to 3 for about the 30th time 2 guys come up to the clearing (they are racing). One says, 'is everything ok?' I explain the problem. He says, 'I'm a physician. Do you want me to do it?' Relieved to have someone else do my dirty work, I say 'yes'. He hauls off and hits me so hard with the epi pen that the quad muscle immediately goes into spasm and I now have a bruise the size of texas on my leg. He (Todd) and his friend (Tim, who is an RN) offer to escort me back to the first SAG.
I go to stand up but my whole body is shaking from the epi and with the radiating pain from the insect sting on my left leg and the muscle spasms from the epi injection on my right leg I don't know which leg to limp on! Note to self: use the epi pen on the same leg as is stung!!
Many, many, many, many heartfelt thanks to Todd and Tim for escorting me back to the first SAG. I hope you guys had an awesome ride and as far as I'm concerned if it hadn't been for me, you guys definitely would have taken first place. Hehehe
I caught a ride from the 1st SAG back to the start/finish in Old Fort and from there we called 911.
Looking on the bright side of things:
1. I got to take my first ever ride in an ambulance (nowhere near as cool as I thought it would be);
2. I astounded the EMT's with the ability to be tachycardic at 80 bpm (the EMT must have asked me 10 times whether I was sure my epi pen worked since they expect your HR to be about 120 bpm after a dose of epi. However, if your resting HR is 42, 80 bmp is not unreasonable. At 120 bpm I'm pretty sure my heart would leap out of my chest and bounce all over the floor of its own volition.)
3. I didn't have to worry about rehydrating since they hooked me up to an IV and I got 500 cc's of fluid, plus I got a shot of benedryl that left me so thirsty that I must have consumed at least 3 gallons of water over the course of the rest of the afternoon.
4. I had the dubious distinction of being the only racer to be carted off in an ambulance (woo hoo. what an honor....
5. I managed to achieve my goal of finishing the race in considerably less time than last year. Including my hobble back to the 1st SAG I finished the race this year in 6.5 hrs less than last year. (Granted, I was going so fast that my computer only registered 15 out of the 55 miles.)
Many thanks to everyone at the McDowell Hospital ER in Marion, NC, to Todd & Tim for being my personal medical team, to the girl who held my hand while Todd whacked me with the epi pen, and to Kathleen the volunteer at the 1st SAG stop who drove me back to the start/finish.
Thanks also to all of the usual suspects: Rick & everyone at Outback Bikes (www.outback-bikes.com
) for the last minute brake pad change - i woe you a fine brew or 6; congrats to Tyler, Grant, Rob, & Ed of the BURN Factory Team for finishing in one piece & to Ed for finishing 12th overall (www.sourcedrinks.com
); Team 180's for the cool shades (check 'em out at www.180s.com
); and Hayes Brakes (www.hayesbrakes.com
Hopefully this concludes my run of bad luck and I can now get back to my regularly scheduled racing season. If not, maybe I will follow my friend Dayna's advice and take up something less dangerous like bowling……or competitive couch sitting…..or something like that.