Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hilly Billy Roubaix Report '10

I was standing in the shower at 11:00 the night before the Hilly Billy. Why am I going to do this on a fixed gear? This isn't gonna to be any fun at all. After I dried off, I went downstairs to throw the rigid fork on my bike. I fiddled around with getting the front brake adjusted for 15 minutes. When I finally got to bed, I was much less nervous. Knowing I would be able to coast at the race felt good.

In the morning, I packed up my bike and headed to Pittsburgh to pick up Don and Stick. We made it to the horse arena outside Morgantown with an hour to go before the race. I rushed around to fill gel flasks, change my gear from a 38X20 to a 38X18, and shorten my chain.
DSC_3911 by bstephens83.
All photos by Ben Stephens

With a couple minutes to go before the race, I'm dressed and my chain is back together. Looks like the majority of riders are on cross bikes or mountain bikes with cross tires. Few guys on wide-tire road bikes. There are only two other people riding mountain bike knobbies. I'm still optimistic that the fat tires won't be too much slower.

The suspension on the official moto is sagging with two guys on the little dirt bike. JR "the promoter" Petsko wishes us luck, then hops in his green Subaru. We roll out and everybody kills it down the paved hill. Back at the other side, the moto stops. "All right, that was the neutral start, now we're going to let everybody bunch back up." The field groans. That was a waste of a hard effort.

We start for the second time. Everybody kills it down another paved hill. I tuck down with my hands on the inside of my bars. The pack stays bunched up when we hit the first section of rolling gravel roads. Don is out in front of everybody pulling the big number one. A few minutes later, I see him on the side of the trail puking.

The road flattens out, and I try to hop into a pace line. Almost immediately I'm spit out the back. The same thing happens when another line of guys roll by. Now I realize that the mountain bike was a bad choice. Even when I'm drafting, my big knobby Ignitors have too much rolling resistance. I feel good, but I just can't go as fast as the guys on skinny tires. This is going to be a long day.

We hit one of the bombed out roads, and for a mile or two, my mountain bike is fast again. I aim for the center of the big murky puddles and blast right through. Wee! I pass most of the guys that blew by me on the road. Then we hit more pavement.

The guys I just passed pass me again. I wish I could go faster. Don tells me to grab onto his wheel, but I can't put down enough power. I ride the pavement for miles. There's another single speeder riding with me for a while, but he has skinny tires and is rolling away from me on all the downhills.
DSC_4001 by bstephens83.

I climb up to the top of a ridge, and start one of the first of many sketchy gravel downhills. The road is rutted out with a layer of Eggbeater sized chunks of loose rock. The descent isn't bad on my mountain bike, but I imagine it's crazy for the guys on cross bikes. I pass a bunch of guys fixing flats.

More miles of road and gravel fall away as time presses on and the day gets hotter. I reach the "Una-fishal Ade Station" where the girls are handing out Heed jello shots. They're saving the whiskey ones for after the race. The cold jello is super refreshing. It has to be over 90 humid degrees now.
DSC_4255 by bstephens83.

I go through a mining area on a dusty road full of coal trucks, then make a left up a steep gravel hill. After the hill, "CAUTION! BLAST ZONE" signs start popping up next to the road. I look over at a huge open pit in the earth as I pedal up the hill.  

My friend Nate is on the road up ahead, and I catch up to him. "I got four flats. I kept trying to chase up to the front, but now I'm just cracked." he tells me. We crest the hill and roll down to the final aid station. I grab a cup of m&m's and a big chunk of cake. Only 11ish miles to go to the finish. The bumpy road bounces all my m&m's out of the cup. Ow.

I always expect the worst at the end of an endurance race. It's like a little game for the promoters. They put the hardest stuff at the end in an attempt to break racers before they finish. With 11 miles to go, I figure that JR will be able to squeeze in three more huge climbs. I'm not disappointed.

The first climb starts on loose dirt. Half way up, it turns into a bumpy quad trail that winds along the top of the ridge. Down the other side, I roll along the flat for a while, then hit an intersection. The road goes straight up. I smile and shake my head. I figured this was coming. 65 miles in, it's the steepest hill of the day.

On the rolling road that follows, Nate catches back up to me before putting it in the big ring and hammering away. A few minutes later, Chis McGill rolls up behind me. He's the only other guy I've seen on a mountain bike. Now the race is on. There's now way I'm going to loose to another fat tired machine.

I hop onto his wheel, and we start to catch back up to Nate. I stay right behind him on the final road climb. On last section of flat ground before the horse arena, I attack and bridge up to Nate. I follow him down the hill then up the other side.
DSC_4513 by bstephens83.
With a few hundred yards to go, I start a sprint. Nate goes with me. We give it all we have until the line. Blow past the timer and Nate edges me out by a quarter of a wheel length. I feel like I'm gonna throw up.

All of us lay around and eat pizza. It's still super hot out. That was great race. JR did an awesome job marking the course with painted arrows, sign arrows, and marshals at all the turns. The mountain bike was a better choice than my fixed gear, but I'm going to have to find myself a real 'cross bike for next year.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stoopid 50 Race Report '10

We finished our chicken wraps then hopped in the Jetta for the drive out to State College. Half way there we stopped in a little convenience store where Rob downed a huge bottle of Gatorade and I bought a blood red gob from a pissey cashier. “Have a good night.” I told her. “Yeah.” she replied. I guess she didn’t enjoy her job of wrapping up hoagies.

After eating our food, we motored straight to the registration area across from Tussey Mountain where we met Don, Chrissy, and Aaron. It was dark out, and Chris Scott and company acted like they had already had a few. We chatted about the Big Bear race for a little, then headed back to the hotel to watch an inspirational VH1 documentary on DMC. “All them other girls ever got was dick. I always loved my wife.”

After the DMC documentary, we discussed the bowel problems we had all been experiencing since Mohican last week. We decided that riding through a hundred miles of cow shit and farm run off had done us in. A few uncomfortably crude jokes later, we went to bed.

I’m up after Rob and Don. My legs don’t want to move. Damn sore from yesterday. But the hotel has waffles and muffins, so I get myself out of bed and head downstairs. I make two waffles for breakfast, then a third to carry back to the room. I throw it in my drop bag. Everyone laughs at me and says the waffle will be crushed, but I have more faith in the resilience of the little Belgian fellow.

Rob’s car smells awful from our wet socks and chamois. I elect to ride to the start with Don.
There’s just over an hour until the race begins, so by the time I get changed and hit the bathrooms a few times, it’s time to roll out.  

I line up in the front, and just as the green land cruiser pulls away to lead us down the road, the rain starts. It’s coming down pretty heavy. Just one dry race. That’s all I want. Just one.

(photos by bob)

My motivation is low, and I feel pretty tired. A chain of ten single speeders form and I hop in the middle. We cruise down the road. Aaron uses his roadie skills to pass me, but I don’t worry about it. I know the field is going to grind to a halt as soon as we hit the first section of single track.
We hit the first trail, and it does. Only one person has to slip to make the string of riders behind them also jump off their bikes. I stop to pee next to the trail. I’m in no hurry. It’s impossible to pass anybody.
A guy behind me isn’t so patient. “Hey man, can you pass this guy? Think you can get around him? Can you go?” There’s a string of 15 riders ahead of me. Passing one would get us no where.

“Don’t worry about it man. Just get comfortable where you are.” I tell him.

“But I can’t climb. I’ve gotta make all my time on the downhills.”

I’d like to tell him that if he can’t climb, he shouldn’t be worried about trying to place well. The race is on the climbs. But I keep my mouth shut.

Aaron uses his roadie skills to hold up a long string of riders on the first downhill, and a few smoking brakes later, we hit the bottom of the mountain and first fire road of the day.

Rob catches up to me and we ride together for a few minutes before I take off up the first big climb. I get into a rhythm up the hill and decide to try to enjoy the day instead of crushing myself. I feel a little burnt out from racing so much.

I pass a couple dozen riders on the climb, and at least 6 or 7 single speeders walking their bikes. I’m feeling alright on the steady and steep hill.

The view at the top is all fogged out from the rainy weather, but I remember how pretty it was last year. I alternate spinning and tucking down on the descent back to the bottom.

I hit the first aid station and grab a few pb&j finger sandwiches and top off my water bottles. A couple single speeders skip the station and rocket by. I head back onto the paved road.

The sun comes out, and its getting hotter. I hit the single track. It’s rocky and the mountain laurel covers the trail, making it hard to see all the little bumps and pedal snaggers. 
I go into a real muddy section of trail, and slid around on all the roots. Still wish it was dry. I run into a big root and my front wheel slips out from under me. I’m able to ditch the bike and hop off, but I land with my foot right in my front wheel, planting all my weight on one side of the rim. Nut sauce.

I spin the front wheel to check for damage, but it didn’t even go out of true. I’m sold on the durability of my I9s. Those things are bomber.

The next hill is really steep and long, so I just hike up it. A guy on gears grunts by, and I yell some encouragement. The climb is super techy and he’s killing it. Kudos.

I can remember what’s coming up on the rest of the single track, and I’m amazed how much better I feel than last year. This is sweet. I hit some technical rock sections and follow a local through them. I’m havin a ball now.
I pass him on a road then cruise along the remaining rocky trails. The trail is flat with a downward trend, and I’m holding 15 mph. I feel better now than I did at Big Bear yesterday.

The trail opens back up to the road, and I spin away. The aid station comes up and I stop for beverage and gel.

“Are you the waffle?” A volunteer shouts to me

“Yes!” I yell back “Do you have any syrup?”

I pull my waffle out of my drop bag (it’s not crushed) and motor up the hill away from the aid.
All smooth to the last downhill. I feel awesome and start catching and passing riders on the long steady climbs. Hit a long downhill trail and I’m able to hold 25 mph the whole way. I ride with a geared guy for a while and we chat. I tell him we only have a few miles to go then take off up the hill.

I turn left and hit the final downhill. It’s pretty gnarly. There are big sharp rocks everywhere, and it’s steep. Ok, just take it easy and finish this out. You don’t have to kill it down this.

Suddenly I feel my front wheel jerk. Oh shit. I know the feeling. I’m already flying forward over the bars. I can’t stop it. The rocks are getting bigger as my face approaches them. Shit.

I land in a heap on the jagged rocks. My hip hurts like crazy, and I open palm punched one of the knife rocks. I don’t have any feeling in my left hand. Why the fuck arg dammit. I keep cursing. Crap.

I pick myself up and look at my knee. It sprung a leak, and there’s blood flowing down my leg. I can barely bend it. I try to clip back in and keep riding, but I can’t clip in. I look down. My cleat is still attached to my pedal. There is a big hole in my shoe where the cleat should be. Damn.

I ride the rest of the down in with one foot clipped in. I’m in a ton of pain. My left foot keeps slipping off the pedal. I really don’t want to crash again. I see the finish log up ahead. I roll under the thing and hop off my bike. A single speeder behind me blows through the line and keeps going. He doesn’t realize the race is over.    

I ride back to the car before my leg stiffens up to much, and use a hose to spray the rock dust out of my knee. That was a good race. And even better, it turned out that I was 3rd in SS and 15th overall. That’s my best finish in an endurance race. If I could bend my leg it would be perfect.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Bear 2X12 Report '10

Last weekend was supposed to be the 24 Hour National Championships at Big Bear, but after some shady excuses from the promoter, the event was canceled, leaving a pack bicycle racers full of gu and anger.

The Big Bear2X12 was created to fill the void left by the 24 hour. The race consisted of a really confusing name, duo teams, six twelve mile laps per team, and a $1000 prize in each category. Rob and I teamed up for the event, and I was confident that we could be victorious, even with a fast SS class that included a team of national champions. Even still, Rob required coaxing, so I promised that if he did the 2X12 with me, I would go to Stoopid 50 with him the next day. It sounded like a fun idea.

Rob picked me up in the Greensburg, and we headed down to WV with offical pghracing.org reporter Benjamin "the official pghracing.org reporter" Stephens. We stopped at a Sheetz so I could pick up some riding glasses, and Ben took a rather stalkerish photo of me exiting the building:

(Pghracing's finest cycling coverage.)

When we got to Big Bear, we had to wait in line to do our second registration and legal paper signing. The line was moving quickly, and pretty soon the annoyed looking helper lady got to us.

"Team name?" she asked
"EAT ME." Rob replied.
Not amused, she stared at us for a few seconds. "Yeah. I did see that one in there. I should have assigned you 69. Here." she shoved a red relay stick at us and two number plates. "Are you both over 21?"

I told her that Rob wasn't, and we tried to explain that we weren't going to stick around for the party anyway, because we were heading to State college to race the next day. "Well that's just stupid." she replied.

We drove the rest of the way up the road and got Rob's little easy up popped up next to a few of the other SS teams. The clearing where everyone was camped was huge and covered in sand and fire ants. It looked like a desert in the middle of the forest. The wind was blowing, and Rob didn't have stakes for the tent. He tied it to the plastic fender of his Jetta to keep it from blowing away.

The race started at the bottom of the big gravel road that we had just driven up, so after I got myself all changed I headed down to the line. Seconds before the race started, Gunnar came bombing down the hill, and as soon as he crossed the line in the wrong direction, we were off.

Everybody's crushing it up the hill, fighting for the hole shot. I enter the woods about 10 riders back, and I'm not able to work up the steam to pass for almost 15 minutes. The fields flying. I guess a $1000 prize is powerful incentive to go fast.

I finally start to get some passes, and work my way up to fifth. The course is damp and soft. Even flat ground is hard to ride with all the resistance in the soil. The rocks are everywhere. I'm digging it.

We hit the big chunky downhill on the course, and I bump and bounce my way down it and catch up to Jason Cyr and JPok. I pass Jason on the next climb and move into 4th. The rest of the course is a false flat, and I feel like I'm not going anywhere even though I'm working like crazy. The soil is so loamy.

I pass the WV Night Club's tent in the woods, and ride over their sweet jump, satisfying their request to "Huck it!"

(I landed on my front wheel, but this picture sure makes it look like I know what I'm doing.)

I finish the lap and hand the stick to Rob. Go over and look at the clock. We're already 4 minutes behind the Wes S. and Gerry Pflug national champion team. Nuts. I'm not very confident anymore. Oh wells.

I wonder how Rob's lap is going. Looks like it's going frowny:

I head back to the pop up to drink a starbucks frappuchino and eat some chex mix. Rob Spreng (enemy Rob, not team mate Rob) and I talk about the lap while lying in camp chairs. It only feels like a few minutes, but it's already been an hour, so we head back to the exchange zone to go out for the next lap.

Evan Perone passed teammate Rob during the lap, so enemy Rob gets to go out before me. I spend my lap trying to catch him, but I never see the guy. I feel better than I did the first lap, but I'm pretty sure that's only because I'm going slower. Mike "vaginas are cool" Cordaro is on my ass for most of the lap.

Try to pass a sport rider, but he has ear buds in both ears, music blasting. I ring my bell and yell at him, but he still doesn't hear me. I go for the pass and he jumps out of the way. "Oh sorry man!" he blurts.

"It's ok man. Just put it in one ear." I doubt he hears me.

I come back to the exchange zone and Rob goes out for his second lap. I repeat the sitting and relaxing routine for a few minutes, then the announcer comes on the loud speaker.

"Folks, just so you know, there is a thunderstorm on the way, and there are 40 mph winds. Get your stuff tied down."

Dammit man. I'm so sick of rain. I pack up the pop up and put all the chairs in the car. It starts to rain, and Ben and I get inside the sun heated Jetta. It starts to pour. "Well now how do you feel about going out for your lap?" he asks.

"Like shit." I reply. But I have to, so I head out into the rain.

Rob comes back, and I go for the last lap. It's dumping rain. Now the course is muddy and slippery. I'm having a good time at first, but after the big downhill I hit the false flat again and feel like I'm going even slower than before. I am. It's so slow. It feels like a continuation of Mohican last week.

I end the lap covered in mud and 14 minutes slower than my 1st lap. I didn't lose any places, but I didn't gain any either. The sun comes out. I go get in the shower wearing my full kit and shoes. I'm done for the day. We're sitting in forth.

Rob finishes his lap in about the same amount of time I did mine and we get packed up and ready to head for State College. We grab some food and hang out for a little before we leave.

50 miles of rocks tomorrow. We're not so sure that it sounds like a fun idea anymore.

And I won (actually I came in 2nd. but 2nd is still a win when you only need to be top 4) the Breck Epic Bloggers Grant Competition. I'm going to Breck! Hells yeah! I can't wait. Thanks a ton if you took the time to vote for me.

The Big Bear race was a great event. Super course, and the 6 lap format was perfect. Long enough, but not too long. I liked it a lot. Stoopid 50 report tomorrow. All photos stolen from Ben Stephens or the facebook.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Last day for Breck

It's the last day of the Breck Epic Blogger's Grant competition. The vote is going to be really close right to the end, so shoot me a vote if you haven't already. Right now I'm sitting in 3rd, but I'm only a few votes behind 2nd, and a few ahead of 4th. The top four get to go.

Anyone who has the Facebooks can vote, so wrangle some friends of your friends to click a few links. It only takes a second and it'd mean a lot to me.

Your vote counts a ton. Do it. Do it now. Pleases. Vote here: http://www.facebook.com/TheBreckEpic?ref=ts#!/TheBreckEpic?v=app_20678178440&ref=ts

Rob and I are heading out to Big Bear tomorrow, then to the Stoopid 50 immediately after. I'm going to try to do some blogging in situ, so hopefully I'll have a Big Bear race report up on Saturday night after the race.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I should have mentioned it earlier, but voting is open for the Breck Epic Bloggers Grant Competition. The top four contestants get a free race entry in exchange for a few days of blogging for a mountain bike website or magazine (which ones, I'm not sure.) I just moved into first place thanks to a bevy of supportive vote gathering friends.

So if you like reading this junk, shoot me a vote. It'd be mighty cool of ya: contesto de blogger's grant.  If you already voted, hugs and kisses. I appreciate it.

My toughest competition was quaking in his boots as early as last Thursday. Along with fearing my ability to swing a sword astride a ferocious roaring viking cat, he said that I drive a "monster truck." This charge cannot go unanswered. The Grumbler is neither truck nor monster, and was inconsolable when he was accused of being both. He's a very sensitive vehicle, and since the insult, has not stopped leaking oily tears. I demand retribution! Punish Thom for his cruelty by voting for me!

Anyhoo, to wrap up the whole Mohican 100 debacle, Don did some statisifying:

"Men's Open - 100 finishers / 90 DNF & DNS = 47.4% fail rate 
Men's SS - 22 finishers / 12 DNF & DNS = 35.3 % fail rate 
Women Open - 9 finishers / 8 DNF & DNS = 47.1% fail rate 
Masters - 8 finishers / 18 DNF & DNS = 69.2% fail rate 
Women SS - 0 finishers / 1 DNF & DNS = 100% fail rate 

Total 100 milers 139 finishers / 129 DNF & DNS = 48.1% fail rate."

48% of hundred milers didn't finish the race. That's fairly intense.  

However, I have a short memory of pain, so I'm going to double up with Rob and do the Big Bear 2X12 this Saturday, then drive to State College for the Stoopid 50 on Sunday. Should be fun times.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mohican 100 Race Report (2010)

Mohican brake pad on the left, healthy new pad on the right. Doooom.

This wasn't what I wanted to see on the way to the Mohican 100:

But it didn't matter what I or any of the other 600 fools entered in the race wanted. It was going to rain. And it did.

There was a long enough break in the weather after we arrived that Steevo was able to set up a little canopy he had snatched from a dead man's house. We sat under the canopy in the drizzle, and life was all right. I extolled the virtues of my newly purchased Walmart "deluxe camp chair" with dual cup holders and 300 pound capacity, and the others listened in jealous awe. We cheerfully hoped that the trails would stay decent. Then a big black cloud rolled over the hill and tried to sweep us and the dead man's tent away.

Wind was blowing away the canopy, and rain was pelting through the mesh screen. Even with four guys, it was hard to hold the tent down. The thing lasted for almost half an hour, and all we could do was laugh miserably. 100 miles is a long way to go in the mud.

After the storm, we had to reset out tents because they were floating in their own private lakes.

Brad and Jason arrived later, and we went down to register and get drop bags. The line of guys bailing on the 100 miler and switching to the 100k was huge. Afterwards, we headed up to our tents and bedded down to the sweet sounds of screaming children and frustrated parents across the street.

I listened to the patter of heavy rain on the roof of my tent, and every few minutes a flash of lightning would make the fabric house glow like a lantern. Shit. I tried to sleep.

It's 5:00 when I hit the indiglow button on my watch. I'm not leaving my sleeping bag for at least another 30 minutes. I can still hear the rain. I groan and roll over. A few minutes later I pull on my kit and a hoodie, and stumble out into the dark morning. Everybody else is awake, and a few stoves are blasting blue jets of flame to boil water for coffee.

The rain stops, and we all get excited. Maybe the day won't be too bad after all. I'm still trying to pull my drop bags together and fill my bottles, and everybody else is rolling out to the start in downtown Loudenville. "WRAAA!" Steevo screams at the tent with the sleeping obnoxious family as he rides away.

I steal a banana from the picnic table and head for the start. A few minutes later, I stop by the side of the road to pee, but there's an endless stream of riders cruising by me "It's not worth it man!" somebody yells. Maybe he's right. I wait until I'm in the woods to go.

In the little town, people are lining up under the big "Mohican 100" banner that's stretched across the main street. I stand in the grass in the front row while the race promoter makes some announcements. Only a few minutes to go. Steavo straddles a telephone pole and pees. I'm as impressed with his ability to urinate in public as I am riding skills.

The promoter gives a five count. 4..3..2..the field starts to roll..1 everybody hits it and we sprint out of town. I spin my face off and catch up to the truck in front. I pull the big number one and lead the field until we hit the first hill in a few hundred yards. Then the field starts to wizz past me. But I was winning the race for a few seconds. And the truck caught it all on video. I'll take it.

(45 seconds of victory)

We stay on the road for a few miles before heading into the first muddy section of double track. The air is heavy with the smell of cow poop from surrounding farms. I wrinkle my nose.

The pack slows down to about 5 mph. I try to get around people. It looks like a lot of these guys have never ridden in the mud. They're slipping and sliding and putting a foot down all over the trail. We have to hike most of the hills.

The course winds in and out of our camp ground, and it's goopy single track for ever. I ride with Gunnar for a while, and we pass trains of geared guys, only to have to slow down again when we catch a new one. A bee stings me in the arm on a climb and I curse the little bastard. That frigging hurt.

More and more mud. I'm having a pretty good time in the woods. Almost 20 miles in. Nice.

I keep rolling on, but now I start to get a tired of the mud. I wana take a nap. Dammit. The single track feels like it's never going to end.

I catch up to Brad while he's fixing a flat after a sketchy water bar descent. The trail keeps getting muddier and muddier. "Dude this is so fucked. So so fuckity fucked." I say as we walk up the hill.

"My back brake quit working. It just goes all the way to the bar." he replied.

We ride the road together for a little while. A pack of tiny fat dogs attack Brad yipping and yapping as we pass a farm. Finally we roll into the 2nd aid station. I grab some pb&j and stick a banana in my back pocket while a super helpful volunteer power washes the muck off my bike. I hike up the grassy hill and hop back on when I finish my delicious sammach.

Brad drops me on the next road section, and I yell to him that he needs to fix the Simple Strap holding his tools and tube to his saddle. He doesn't listen, and his stuff falls off later in the day.

I roll along the lonely farm roads for a long time. I sing a crappy Lady Gaga song out loud. I really am starting to lose my mind. The road alternates from pavement to gravel and back. It rolls along the farmscape with some big climbs and descents. Still smells like cow shit.

A train of geared guys catch me, and I latch on to the back of their pace line as they take turns pulling. I love being the parasitic single speeder. They compare mileage. 5 Garmin units, 5 different readings. They range from 38 to 45 miles. I have 45 on my old school magnet and sensor computer, so we go with that.

We go back into the woods and I'm ready to strangle a kitten. Enough god damn muddy single track. I make a really angry face. There's really nothing else I can do so I keep riding.

At the 3rd aid, the 100k guys split off from us. In about 12 miles, they'll be home. We have over 50 to go. I grab more gel, another pb&j, and hose sandpaper mud off of my crotch. It's a huge climb out of the aid station. In mud. On single track. Again. Now I would skip strangulation and just bite the stupid kitten's head off.

I head back out onto the road by myself. More smelly rolling hills. I watch the miles slowly tick away on my speedometer. 60.35,  60.40,  60.45. I hit the rail trail of doom and I'm glad. It's so slow and long and soul crushing, but it's flat, and it's taking me closer to the finish.

People start to pass me every few minutes. I couldn't care less. I'm almost done racing at this point. I just want to be done. Rob blows by me and shouts "I eat the soul crushing rail trail of despair for breakfast!"

"You sure do" I murmur. I'd like to throw my decapitated kitten at his face.

We hit the next aid together and I down a cup of peanut m&ms. I feel a little better now. I try to hold on to Rob, but he is just way to strong on the road, so I let him go. I go back into the woods and hike up a super steep fire road. A geared guy passes me and we ride together for a while.

At the end of the fire road, we make a left on to paved road. Once we're out of cover from the trees, thunder cracks and the sky lets loose. A sheet of rain smacks down and pelts me in the face so hard that I can't open my eyes. We pass a group of people watching riders from their porch. "Hey you guys are goin the wrong way!" they yell.

Shit. We continue on for a while and don't see any signs. "We better turn back!" my companion in misery yells over the crushing storm. We head back down the road a few miles and find the arrow we missed. I look down at my computer. An extra 4 miles. Dammit.

More muddy single track. I try to catch a single speeder that passed me while I was lost. After a big climb we hit the 3rd aid station again. I ride right through it and roll with Gunnar for a while. He also passed me while I was lost in the rain. The finish is close I think. I start feeling good, and mash up a hill away from Gunnar.

I start passing a few 100k riders on a big fire road climb, and I'm almost happy. So close to being done. Then I hit the last aid station. "6 to go!" yells a volunteer. I'm so happy. Then I hit the muddy woods again. My happy leaves.

The last single track is the muddiest of the entire day. I'm moving at about 6 mph. I hate it. I want to be done. I pass people sitting by the side of the trail. "Hey man do you have a granola bar?" one poor soul asks. I throw a chewy bar at him. Screw this race. Screw mud. Screw the woods.

So close. There's mile markers on the trail but they tick by so slowly. I finally hit the camp ground, and see people riding up a road around the lake. I'm so pissed off. I thought we rolled right down to the finish. But there's more. I hit an over flowing stream. "Pick your bike up over your head and cross here! Get it over your head!" yells a volunteer. The brown water is moving fast and almost comes up to my chest.

I get out of the stream and keep riding. Not long to go. I see the banner up ahead. I'm so angry and spent that I'm not even relived to roll through the finish. That sucked. I stand in line for Mongolian barbecue.