28 July 2010

ORAMM, oh man

I realize a race report is overdue, given that it's now Wednesday and the race was Sunday, but things have been just a bit -- well, crazy around here. My run-up to ORAMM was far from "perfect" and included a quick trip to the doctor, a long day in the hot sun, scoping out local real estate and ultimately finding our dream house and putting together an offer ... Oh, and prepping for the race too!

Maybe it's all the stuff taking my mind off the race itself, but I slept great in the days prior, and race day went really, really well. It helps that this regional "epic" race is just an hour from home, and that I was able to get out to the trails several times in the recent past months -- knowing where to go and what to do makes a huge difference! Even if Nolan and Stephen tried to confuse the heck out of me the first time ...

First off, this race was hot. Africa hot. I think it hit a record 92 or 94 out there, and even the stream we jumped in afterward wasn't all that cool. Add in humidities that felt more like the Tropics, and you can just imagine how much we were swimming out there. This was the first race where I could actually feel my feet sweating in my shoes -- I even had to put them on the boot dryer when we got home!

Seeing Stephen and Greg before the start helped calm the nerves a bit, though I seem to have lost some of my Superweek-trained front-of-the-pack ninja skills -- by the time I lined up, I was fourth or fifth row. It didn't take but a minute to move to the front, and before I knew it, we were off ...

Out of town, heading toward the Point Lookout Greenway/Old U.S. 70, I passed Stephen on a short uphill and wished him a good race. I wasn't too concerned about getting to the front, but maybe I should have been -- they didn't open the gate to the greenway! All of a sudden, we're off the bikes and jumping the bars, and the leaders are way up there pulling away ...

I found myself riding with Eddie O'Dea, an endurance specialist from Atlanta, and we started working our way up the climb. I've competed against Eddie for years now, and his climbing style and mine are direct opposites -- he surges, whereas I'm more like Jan Ullrich and keep a steady pace. Thankfully I knew this, and so when he surged I moved up to his wheel and just rolled it over. I was feeling good, not going too hard this early in the heat, and towards the top we caught up to Wes Dickson of Sycamore Cycles and a couple of his teammates. We were third group on the road, sitting probably 10th through 15th or so, and just getting going ...

I dropped to the back to let everyone else take the lead on Kitsuma -- I didn't want to be that roadie guy who held everyone else up. Instead, I swapped places with a couple of folks going up, and got hung up behind one guy before rolling smoothly past him and finishing out the climb. I lost time and places going down -- if I ever really learn to descend, watch out! -- but I was safe and felt good at the bottom. We rolled out of the woods and I even caught air through the picnic area, before heading up the road to aid station 1.

Quick in-and-out with a high-five for the little girl, and onto the trail heading to Heartbreak. I was with a kid from a local college, an affirmed roadie, so I took the lead through the river and to the base of the hill. The hike-a-bike took a bit out of me, so I stopped to catch my breath, before continuing up and cresting the ridge. I was with the kid and one other guy, and I let them go ahead -- I wasn't in crisis mode, but I was a bit on-edge, and wanted to have my own line through the switchbacks.

I popped out on Jarret's Road and started to make up some ground. A lot of ground -- I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to catch back up to Wes and his group before we crested the ridge and started the drop to Curtis Creek. WTF?! That's when I knew I was on a good day, and made sure to eat and drink and drink some more to keep it going ...

Into aid station 2, another high five for the girl and complete bottle refills, and off we went. One of the Sycamore guys had stayed with me on the downhill, and he and I chatted a bit as the pavement ended and gravel took over. This is where the race really begins, and though I was thinking about cramping and starting to feel the heat a bit, I was in good spirits and kept up the positive self-talk -- vitally important with a 9-mile gravel grind of a climb ahead of you. The Sycamore guy, however, was already thinking about how he only ever races for 3 hours or less, and started to lose some ground ...

Local knowledge is important, and in a race like this can make all the difference. With two full bottles, I knew I had enough water/Heed to last me to the top -- but I also knew there was a clean spring at the start of the real climbing. Off and down, three bottles' worth of freezing-cold water over my head, I was ready for the assault and pulled away just as the Sycamore guy got there ...

What a bastard of a climb. Curtis Creek saps the life out of you, and even on race day is something like 70 or 80 minutes of suffering. It's more or less one gear, but with no reference points to speak of, you're reduced to just making it to the next corner, hoping that it's the last before the Parkway. But of course it's not, and you just have to keep going ...

I caught two guys on the climb, though one of them stayed with me. I sort of don't remember much, other than the apparition that was Rodney and his wife Holly, giving me a bag of ice to stick down the back of my jersey. Where they real? I can't say I know for sure, but somehow I crested to aid station 3 with enough energy to remember to wish Cara Applegate a happy birthday.

Down the other side, 10 minutes of relief before the long pedal section and the next climb. The other guy got away, so I was on my own, and damned if my legs wanted to cramp but felt pretty good. I raced along the river and started to see the guy ahead, churning a big gear and bouncing up and down on his full-sus ride. He looked sloppy, but he was super-strong, and by the time I caught him at the top I knew I wouldn't get away. I grabbed a refill at station 4 and he went ahead on the road, and when I caught him I let him lead the hike up to the top of the ridge.

I knew he'd get ahead of me anyway, so I was good letting him go. Here's where I made my almost-fatal mistake: After climbing/pedaling for the past 2-1/2 hours, with only a 15-minute gravel-road downhill in the middle, and finishing with a 10-minute hike-a-bike, I hopped on my Siren without a second thought and started down Heartbreak. Holy crap! I had forgotten how technical the very top can be, and before I knew it, I was bouncing from rock to root to rock to root, barely in control as I attempted to clip in. D'oh! Visions of an untimely death flashed before my eyes, before my head wrapped around the descent and my trusty Siren flowed out to a smoother track. After that, it was full-gas downhill (with a couple of Pisgah uphills thrown in), and I railed Heartbreak faster than I ever had before. I was caught by just one guy in the switchbacks, and just as the cramping hit I decided to walk the last root section. All in all, not a bad way to make it down a mountain!

Out to the road, just one climb left, and though I could see him ahead on the switchbacks I couldn't quite seal the deal. No K sighting at aid station 5 (they missed me by minutes), but I felt good and the lack of traffic meant a cleaner ascent to the top of Kitsuma the second time around. Fighting cramps, trying to ignore the heat, knowing I only had two little climbs in the middle, I started down feeling confident but cautious -- last time I did Kitsuma x2, I almost broke my ankle! This time the drama came sooner, as I came around a left-hand bend and found the trail washing out beneath me! Thankfully my trusty Karmas got me back on the main tread, and I managed to finish out only walking a couple of spots that I walk anyway ...

I had one guy on my tail as we popped out onto the road, but when I asked him if he wanted to work, his reply was less than enthusiastic -- more akin to "no f*ing way" I believe. So I put my head down and drilled it -- I just needed to make it to the top of the bridge, and from there it was all downhill to town. I summoned all of my roadie mojo, turning a huge gear and getting aero on the descent, before crossing the bridge and coming to the line with a well-earned top 20 finish, right at the time I predicted I'd get. Woo hoo!

The post-ride dip in the river was awesome, and was a great way to pass the time before the Ks got there -- they had been told I never passed through station 5, so were a bit late getting to the finish. I spent time chatting with Andy Applegate, Eddie, Garth Prosser, Wes and eventually Rich Dillon -- always good to catch up with fellow endurance sufferers and swap notes about death-defying log ramps, errant trees and jumping in mountain streams ...

Overall, I'm pretty happy at how my first ORAMM went. Now I've got a few weeks to retool, as September is shaping up to be its own epic marathon of both bike and non-bike stuff. But just like ORAMM, getting in some prerides and knowing the course will make all the difference ...

1 comment:

My name is Stephen said...

Hardy har!! If you had been paying attention, you would not have been confused, but it's ok, you were OD'ing on you first Kitsuma experience!!
Great story, thanks for sharing.