Best thing about a tent house. It travels well:
Tim de la Garcon picked me up in Ohiopyle after work on Saturday night. We ate some big plates of steak and eggs at Curt's Restaurant, then headed for Michaux.
We got there at midnight after spending a while looking around for the gravel parking lot in the dark. I set up my tent and immediately fell asleep.
The parking lot starts filling up pretty early. I steal some of Tim's hot water and make coffee in my french press. Scott Root is making blueberry pancakes and JPok is complaining about breaking bike parts.
I'm a little nervous. I expect this race to be really hard and full of crazy rocks. Even the parking lot is full of big stones. I haven't ridden any serious rock gardens for a few months.
"Hey, somebody just said Harlans racing single speed today. Have fun with that." Tim says. Not only is Harlan Price a real-deal retired pro, he rides Michaux a lot. I'll have to ride my face off to keep up with him.
I line up on the dirt road next to Harlan and all the other single speeders. There's a lot of fast dudes here, and a lot of guys who know these trails. I complement Topher's magnificent Rasputin beard.
The Open geared men sprint away down the road. We move forward a few feet. "Single Speeders, do not go yet. Two minutes." the organizing man yells. "10..." My legs twitch and I clip one foot in. "5..." I stare down the road. "3,2,1" I clip my left foot in and hit it.
I grab the center section of my bars, tuck down, and sprint out at about 24mph. I look back after the first turn, and the pack is already out of sight. Sweet. Now I have to see how long I can stay away.
I start passing open racers on the first climb. The trail is wide and covered in rocks, but there's nothing especially difficult yet. The first descent is super steep and loose. I get my weight back and go down the hill with some cation. There's no point in crashing this early.
On to some flowing trails. (Flowing by Michaux standards. They're still covered in glacial deposits.) I hop over a log and pedal fast. I'm feeling frisky.
I climb to the top of the ridge. We hit a huge boulder field. I try to follow one of the local guys over the van sized rocks, but I'm having some trouble lunging up them with my big gear. I run some parts and ride others. Maintain forward motion.
"Garcon! What are you doing?" I yell. Tim is walking down the trail towards me.
"I crushed my ankle. I'm done. I can't ride my bike," he says.
I wish him luck and ride away. I ride through the first aid station without stopping and keep hammering down the rocky trails. We're about two hours in, and I'm starting to feel good. My legs are working well, and I'm starting to feel like I'm riding smoothly.
I pass one of the geared guys I'm riding with on a downhill. We rip around some turns and roll all the way to the bottom of the mountain. Cross a stream, then start back up the other side. The hill is a little too steep to ride, so I hop off and hike up it.
Two hours and 45 minutes in to the race. I look behind me. Harlan is crushing up the hill. I wondered when he was going to catch me.
"I wondered when you were going to catch me man," I say.
We ride together at a comfortable pace and take turns leading. Harlan is riding a rigid bike, but he's still so smooth going downhill. He he just floats and dips over all the rocks and roots. The guy is really really good at riding a bike.
At the second aid station, we stop and I grab some gels and fill my bottles. About 20 minutes after the aid station I start having serious stomach issues. Harlan pulls away from me. I'm having trouble turning the pedals over. I was feeling so good a few minutes ago. This sucks. I feel like throwing up.
"Coming around Montana," somebody says. I move over. Garcon passes me. It doesn't register for a second.
"How the hell did you get up here? I thought you destroyed your ankle," I say.
"I waited for it to swell up, then I got back on my bike. It hurts really bad," he says. That's great. He's passing me with a swollen ankle, and I'm whining about a tummy ache. I'm such a little princess.
Unfortunately, being annoyed with myself doesn't fix the digestive issues. I need to eat something, but the thought of gel is making me sick. I need solid food. The last aid station should be coming up, but it's all the way at the top of the ridge.
It's the longest climb of my life. I'm barely moving, and I'm starting to get a painful twinge in my legs. I finally top out and roll over to the aid. I stuff some banana's, snickers, and honey stinger bars into my mouth. Ten miles to go.
I leave the aid right in front of another single speeder. He passes me in a few minutes on the bumpy road. I can't stay with him.
Down into the woods and on to some damp trails. The trail twists along the whole way to the bottom of the mountain. It's not damp anymore. There are huge mud bogs, deep puddles, and streams. I stand up and pedal hard to get up a hill.
My legs lock up. I yell into the woods. It feels like someone has driven a steel rod through both of my legs. I hobble off my bike and try to walk up the hill. They won't bend. This is terrible. Keep moving keep moving. I punch my quads and try to get something moving.
JPok spins up the hill and orders me to move. I hobble off the trail. He bitches about breaking his pedal.
I get back on my bike and my legs start to loosen up a little. There's a stream flowing down the climb. I walk slowly through the mud. I expect a single speeder to pass me.
The hill goes on forever. I keep trudging along next to my bike. It starts to rain. The water running over my feet is light brown. I want this race to be over so bad. I don't know why I do this to myself.
I finally hit the top of the ridge. I get on my bike and ride out onto a gravel road. The road goes down hill and into the finish chute. I roll into the white tent and people are yelling. I'm so glad that's over.
Other than the last river climb/hike, the course was awesome. Lots of turns, logs, and rocks. I really enjoyed it until my legs stopped bending. 3rd was a respectable finish in that SS field, but I want to do better. I'll be back in Michaux for the Dark Hollow.