I love mud, and I love disc brakes. Unfortunately, in the Appalachians around Dahlonega, GA, the two are mutually exclusive.
I’ll admit, I didn’t even look at a weather report. There were some scattered showers in the area at registration and some rumors that it might rain during the race, so I hurried up and got to Camp Wahsega for some pre-riding and prep.
When I arrived, I had a little bit of an FML moment. I propped my bike up against the porch of the cabin only to find it swarmed by a few hundred angry yellow jackets when I came back outside. WTF?!?! Seriously?!?!? The only solution the camp manager had was to give them an hour or so to calm down before easing in and removing the bike. Luckily, we were able to get it out, and no one was stung. Pre-riding the first few miles of the course (a nice little climb) went off without a hitch. I even got to ride with one of my awesome blog readers (Hi, Ray!)
The remainder of the day was uneventful- dinner at Caruso’s in Dahlonega with some of the other racers, then a little socializing before dozing off to the sounds of a massive thunderstorm. I was out cold & didn’t wake up again until the breakfast bell was ringing at 5:00am.
Race morning was dark & drizzly. It was a singlespeed sort of day (ok, nevermind- every day is a singlespeed sort of day). At breakfast, someone said it was going to rain more. Since it was warm, I really didn’t care- attrition is fun! By 7:00, I was prepped and ready to watch the 100 milers go off then line up for the 50. It looked like there were a good number of women on the line (results say that 20 started), and I didn’t really recognize anyone, so I figured I’d just pace myself up the first climb and see what happened.
Of course, a few minutes into the race, the drizzle turned into a downpour. Some women passed me, but I stuck to my usual SS hillclimb strategy of alternating sitting & standing while trying to keep my breathing nice & steady. It got steeper at the top (as most climbs tend to do), where more than a couple of guys were walking. Guess some people learn about pacing the hard way (myself included)!
Fast forward about 15 more miles. The course was on/off some really muddy singletrack (woohoo!). My brakes had started rubbing ferociously, and suddenly my rear lever bottomed out to my handlebar and totally stopped working- as in, I could squeeze it to the bar and spin my rear wheel. Uh-oh. My front brake felt like it was on the verge of bailing out, too- if I held the lever to the bar, it gave me about 10% of its normal stopping power.
At Aid 3 (about 27 miles in), I was ready to call it a day and head back in for beer. However, I’d just passed Laureen Coffelt (who was racing the 100), and she caught up to me during the discussion of how to bail off of the course. I told her I was leaving, and she gave me an earful, telling me I was sitting in 3rd place, it’s just 20 more miles, and that walking all the downhills was a better option than quitting. Of course, she was right. I refilled my bottles and headed back onto the course.
Side note- some of you might remember that at last year’s Fool’s Gold, I had a really, really bad wreck, and Laureen was the one who paced me through the worst of the singletrack and back into the race to finish in 2nd place. I owe her a Christmas ham or two!
The rest of the course was a lesson in how to ride with one barely functioning brake. I felt lucky, though, because most people didn’t have any brakes, and were using a foot on the ground to slow down. I called it front brake Hanukkah, because it should have only lasted a few more miles, but miraculously kept barely working for the next 20. I ended up staying in 3rd place behind Lisa Randall & Jamie Dinkins.
Post race beer was good.
Now, it’s out to the garage to find out what the mud has done to my brakes and bottom bracket. I’m taking the camera with me.