Monday, July 27, 2015

Double Down at the Wilderness 101






The adventure for this year’s Wilderness 101 started around mile 25 for me. I was blazing down the 1st descent on double track. I had started the first off road climb at the tail end of the lead group and was charging hard on the descent to regain a few positions. I was enjoying the warp speed trip through the green tunnel.

Spun out in my big ring and little cog, 38/11 was pretty fast. On this descent I kind of miss the 42 or 44 gearing of a triple ring. Another rider passed me and we were both just flat out hauling ass. At one point I was staying off the brakes a bit more, and started to reel him a bit. I wanted a clear line of sight, so I decided to line up a pass in the other lane of the double track.

The surface of this descent is deceptive. It can reel you in with the apparent smoothness. However, it’s punctuated with occasional rocky bits, branch pieces, and slick spots. All of these features can easily be concealed by ankle high grass.

I’ve descended this section during my 6 other previous Wilderness 101 races and have always had an awareness of the speed, and the risk. I noticed a wiggle from the rider in front and started to change double track lanes.

When your front end washes out, you experience a distinct and odd transition as physics takes over. In common parlance, shit hits the fan.

Only the green tunnel truly knows what transpired as it bore witness to my meteoric collision with terra firma. Maybe I bounced, but I knew I had hit my head with alarming force. I was acutely aware of the seriousness well before my carcass had completely stopped.

I paused for a moment and took stock of the situation. There were some spiders in front of my face skittering about on the ground.

Everything seemed to work as I raised my torso. My helmet had done its job. Dirt and grass bits dropped fell off my visor. Fuck, this may be a deal breaker for the day. At least I had remained conscious and didn’t felt like I had rung my bell. I could have been hurt a lot worse.

Where was my bike? I looked back and saw it sprawled across the double track. Man, I had better get that thing out of the way. I scampered over, picked it up, spun the front end back to the correct direction (forwards) and got out of the race line, just in time as a few riders zoomed by.

Where were my glasses? They must have come off. I found them down the trail where I had carcassed. I cleaned the dirt off with my water bottle and put them back on.

My bars had been knocked about 10 degrees out of alignment with the front wheel. I opted to ride to the end of the descent and straighten them out. My neck hurt, but seemed functional. Left thumb felt wonky, but no sharp pain. I was surprised as I caught and repassed about 3 or 4 of the riders who had zoomed by.

I stopped at the gate, busted out the multi-tool, and set about fixing my askew front end.

One of the riders I had just traded places with got to the gate and commented something like “Wow! There was so much carnage on that trail!” I think he was referring to all the riders who had fallen victim with flat tires and at least one busted rim. I chuckled inside because I don’t think he had any clue of my perspective. “Yep, lots of carnage” I thought.

Jim Mathews asked me if I was OK as he rolled up to the gate, commenting that it looked like I had taken a pretty good fall. I let him know I was alright and finished fixing my bike issues as he vanished into the distance.

I got back to work riding up the gravel climb over towards the three bridges single track section. Maybe I could still pull off a decent day? I decided to see how I felt by the time I reached the single track. Previous crash experience has taught me that adrenaline is a powerful pain suppressor and can mask serious injury for 20 to 30 minutes. Time would tell.

My neck hurt as I powered out the climb. I tried standing and seated efforts, but holding my head up hurt a bit as my neck ached. Something was a bit off with the left thumb as well.

My bike coasted up to the folks directing traffic into the single track. I had decided to call it a day. Head and neck injuries are nothing to fool around with and I was not in the mood to risk it for another 70 miles.

Chris rolled up on the moto and we discussed various options for riding back to Coburn where the race start and finish were. Fortunately, I had changed my mind as I had prepped my gear for the day, and had brought my smart phone. The kind folks marshaling the course gave me a few options and I headed off for my 23 mile ride back on some gravel and mostly paved road.

I made it to highway 322 and figured that taking highway 45 back to Millhiem and then over to Coburn was the most direct route and was safer than 322. My ride back was fairly pleasant, but it was a decently long pull. Getting buzzed by duallys belching diesel and bad manners was a bit unnerving, but there was a fairly decent shoulder.

I had plenty of time to take in the scenery.

Rolling into the finish from the wrong direction felt strange. It was way too early in the day. It was weird to see the race venue devoid of almost any people. Very peaceful.

I took a selfie, and fed my ego by throwing it on the “gram”.

I got cleaned up and headed to the Elk Creek café for some lunch. Burger and fries tasted a lot better than two bottles of Perpeteum. I noticed some of the idle waitress glancing my way a bit. That’s when it dawned on me I was probably developing a nice shiner. Yo Adrian!

On my Instagram feed, I got a like from @sylvester.stallone.fans which gave me a chuckle. Apparently #rockybalboa has at least one close follower. I also saw a post from Watts Dixon. His day had ended with a destroyed rim, I think from the same descent. Man that sucks!

I sat in my car to give my neck a rest. Tumble weeds would have rolled by if I had been sitting been in the wild west. Very quiet. I was a bit surprised as Keck Baker came rolling in. Whoa, that was fast! I checked my phone, seemed like a time of about 6:30!

Witnessing the first finisher in person struck me as odd. Very quiet with the only cheer coming from a sole voice at the timing station congratulating Keck.

Within a few minutes more racers started coming in. Wow, all the times were so fast!

My race day didn’t turn out as planned, but fortunately I was not hurt too seriously. My shiner was really starting to come out, and the rest of the afternoon was a great opportunity for catching up with friends and hearing about how their races unfolded.

Here are some preliminary results::

Open Men
1 6:27:00 Keck Baker ChampSys/Cannondale p/b Battley Harley
2 6:37:00 Christian Tanguy Rare Disease Cycling
3 6:43:39 Dereck Treadwell
4 6:45:00 Ryan Serbel Toasted Head Racing
5 6:45:01 Gordon Wadsworth Blue Ridge Cyclery p/b Reynolds GM Subaru
6 6:54:00 Andy  Rhodes Black Dog Bicycles
7 6:54:01 Ronald Catlin RBS TREK MTB TEAM
8 7:02:01 Adam Hill Velocity Cycle and Ski
9 7:10:04 Michael Danish
10 7:12:06 Stewart Gross Griggs Ortho/Boulder Cycle Sport

Open Women
1 7:13:11 Vicki Barclay Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team
2 7:59:41 Carla Williams Joe's Bike Shop Racing Team
3 8:27:53 Lisa Randall SuperSport Athletic Wear

Single speed
1 7:14:07 Bob Moss Farnsworth Bicycles/Crank Arm Brewing/Torrenti
2 7:16:14 Matthew Ferrari Freeze Thaw Cycles - Stans NoTubes
3 7:18:57 Mike Montalbano Toasted Head Racing

Yo Adrian!

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