Eric Burke, Gabe, Kelly and I made an FM showing at this year's Ft Yargo 9/6hr race in Winder. Like the weekend before at Cohutta, the heat was on and the 10am start wasn't helping. By lap two I was certainly playing catch-up, fighting against dehydration and general heat fatigue. But for me, the bike and gear played particularly important roles this race...
The night before, with three dollars in quarters and the knowledge that an infinite supply of 16oz C02's will NOT seat tubeless 29er tires (see Cohutta post), I used a gas stations air compressor to setup one of my favorite front tires, a Maxxis Ardent, and a new-to-me Stan's ZTR Crest ss rear wheel. Pop, pop, pop goes the Stan's wheel. That great sound of a tire bead against a rim. It's like it was made for tubeless or something. Both the tire and rear wheel were fantastic for the race; smooth, fast, and confidence inspiring up front, with a quick response and energy transfer from the back.
My 2000-mile-plus mtb shoes on the other hand? Well, as Gabe and I sat listening to the pre-race spiel I noticed that my right shoe had a sole about 75% detached from its upper. Glad I saw this before the race. Nothing a little electrical tape couldn't fix. Woohoo. I was off to a great start.
The race began with a sketchy mass start on a narrow road, continuing on pavement for nearly a mile. Our friendly race promoter (and I mean that. this dude was awesome!) informed us that this first lap would be shorter and subsequently faster than all the others. Knowing this, I kept moving forward in the beginning (yellow line rule, what's that?) so I wouldn't get slowed down on the single track.
And then my bike gave me an ego check.
As I spun out, with the hole shot up ahead, I heard that ominous rattling sound. Dropped chain! "Really?" So much for trying to pass people early on. swoosh. swoosh. swoosh. Riders zipped past me as I pulled off to the side of the road and tried to quickly put my chain back on, with diminished fine motor skills from high heart rate and plenty of adrenaline. Don't worry, I told myself. I got six hours to get into a rhythm and race.
Chain back on, I pushed onto the sandy trail. I knew the stream crossing was up ahead and the trail narrowed, so I wanted a good position. "On the left! On the Left!". Get back up there.
Wait... why can't I clip my left shoe in???
Not only was my right shoe falling apart, but my left cleat fell off? Nope. Even worse. I looked down to see a bare spindle gleaming in the sun. My pedal fell off. This was not my day.
Defeated, I pulled up off the trail and back on the road nearby. I started rolling back to my truck when I saw the race promoter on his four-wheeler. With my final ounce of hope, I asked him if he could make an announcement back at the transition area for someone to loan me pedals. As he motored away to fulfill this poor man's wish, I dug deep and tried not to be far behind. When I rolled in, he was on the mic calling for pedals, but no one was coming to my aid. So I rolled around frantically asking everyone myself.
At the furthest end of the lot, when I was about to give up, Duncan from Reality Bikes (he deserves a shout out for sure) answered in the affirmative "yea, I got some crank bros pedals. sure you can borrow them".
Backed that bare spindle out, put a fresh pedal in, and I was back on course.
I have to admit, I don't have much experience in the timed/lap format races. So, like a bat outta hell I tried to chase back up through the field and make up lost time. What I realized after two laps (the second of which was my overall fastest) was that that time really was "lost". As I chased I faded. The plan was to race consistently and the pedal fiasco sort of blew that out of the water.
I got five laps in to finish 9th for solo 6hr ss. Had fun despite all the early headaches. Them trails are fast and have some sweet features. Both Gabe and Kelly set new knobby-tire distance PR's. I think they definitely feel the pull to the dark side that is endurance racing!