True Grit Epic.
This one had my attention. Long before the end of the season and SSCXWC, long before I stopped drinking and started eating clean, it was ominous, looming there on the horizon. I knew it would prove to be a hard one.
Looking back to 2013, I was recovering from yet another surgery…replacing the broken Ti plate on my collarbone that was installed just 51 weeks earlier. I started off well, Crazy Train, HoH anyone, had a setback (was it really almost 2 months?) and I began to not care about results and just had fun. I still loved riding my bike, just wasn’t exactly focused on performance etc… I started more than one NUE race working off the drinks from the day before. I treated those races as weekends away with the boys with a race mixed in. Even so, I did fairly well, considering it all. I added 15 minutes to Mohican and 1:05 to my Wilderness time, and was/am ok with it. Hell, I set a PR at the Hampshire, and to quote Jeff, did it after having ‘X’s for eyes’ the day prior. I then got my beaut of a CX bike, thank you Rick! Started fooling around racing SSCX and was reenergized by some late season results.
True Grit would represent a step up from the normal NUEs we’ve done. Travel alone would be huge, flying with bikes etc… With a hard cutoff at 11 hrs, the fear of failure was the driving force in making some abrupt changes. I had decided to live it up until SSCXWC, and then flip the switch (special thank you to the Philly crew and my BYORN, Diana). The following Tuesday I weighed myself and set the course to lose 20# (I gained that much?! Jeez O’Pete) while training for this one. I started at the gym for about a month, found my 12 week mark from TG and started a canned ‘bike only’ plan. That first week on the plan was not kind; I realized in short order that it was not sustainable for me. With Lynn’s blessing I pulled a trigger that I’d been contemplating for a long time. No, not an actual trigger…c’mon now, I LOVE ME SOME ME. I had been tugging Joc’s ear, for about a year, about Charlie…and finally decided I needed guidance. See I told you it had my attention. I had already given up Sufferfest videos for a plan, big step there; with Charlie I’d have the added bonus of communication. Perhaps if I wasn’t in such a state of disrepair I’d have stuck with the canned plan, who knows but that’s not what happened. Once I got onboard, I was all in. I got directions, followed them and gave my feedback. This winter made things a little tougher, of course. There was that weekend a month ago where I did 50 and then 80 miles on the rollers (I don’t know if I surprised Charlie or not, I’m sure I showed him my mettle). I, of course, lost the weight, a touch ahead of schedule, might I add. I was stoked that I was heading into the race following the plan, and had done my part and lost the weight.
It was just Jeff and I this go ’round. Chad had it on the docket but his work wouldn’t let up. Sadly, he couldn’t make it. Jeff and I left on Wednesday evening on a nonstop from JFK to Las Vegas. We laid our heads down, had some buffet and were off to St George. I’d been to this part of the country before and knew what we were in store for…and tried to let Jeff know whatever he had in his head, the reality would be so much better. 2 short hrs to our hotel with a stop to take pictures along the way. We immediately start building bikes, pre-riding was a must! Zen was the first day, and while it was overcast it was spectacular. It was everything if hoped for, epic trail in a different land. We hadn’t seen dirt in forever and now we were on some dirt a bunch of rock in a desert. Videos uploaded, pics taken. Fun fun stuff.
As luck would have it, Joc and Cheryl, were staying next door. It made the weekend that much better. Cheryl did a preride with Cary, another hammer who was staying downstairs. While Joc pre rode a couple of other sections of the course with Jeff and I, Rim Rock and Barrel Roll. We hit some tech stuff, found the lines and had a blast. FTR- Yes, I was Sacajawea. No, we didn’t get lost. After the ride, we drug the chairs out front and put our feet up. 70* blue bird sky and no humidity, hells! Watching Cheryl prep her bike motivated me to get my shit together. I focused on hydrating, and first the first time in two years, it was water, a lot of water. I was determined to give myself every advantage I could, addition by subtraction (no booze). No waiting until the morning off, just dialing everything in. The five of us hit the Black Bear for tasty dinner had some good eats and we were to bed early.
Race day and I felt good, if not a little cold on the clear morning. Lining up at the start I noticed two things, one there wasn’t a ton of us, two at 6’2” and 175 I was the fat guy. Holy hell, shaved legs, muscles rippling, minimal body fat and me. I wasn’t racing them, but Joc and I discussed that while cyber stalking for info/details on the race ‘didn’t any regular Joe’s do this frickin race?’ All that meant was that I’d be working alone at points, which is OK. Like I said, I LOVE ME SOME ME. On the Jeep road leading out, they started moving… away from me…at a pretty good pace…the road went up and they didn’t pause. Later boys. I began noticing something I hadn’t earlier in the day, wind. A strong wind and we were heading into it. Decisions to hold wheels came and went and we were heading into barrel trail, which we’d be doing twice. It was surreal pedaling up the mini canyons, spectacular visually. I was pretty happy with how I was going, the climbs were the climbs I wasn’t great but I was moving. The Gerry was a freight train that passed me at the bottom of one of the fingers. Cheryl was to follow nose over the stem, looking strong and grinding. Sonya caught me going up some techie climb where I had to loft the front wheel, stall and loft the wheel again to complete the up. She called out ‘I saw that, you rode it’ I was afraid I held her up. This was right before this ‘death drop’ techy multi-level descent that I was not going to be riding. (On my second lap I did see some guy session it on a SSFS, turns out he was a local). I rode Zen enjoying the views as I went along. It was just so damn cool seeing the completely different scenery, I loved it. After Zen you hit the bag drop and start a climb to the fun section. The wind, it was still blowing. The fun section was a full on high speed pump track on white earth hard as concrete and bumpy as hell. One of the only times I’ve ever wanted a FS. It was fast flowy and fun! Until it was over, and then there was no fun to be found. 6 miles on at best a false flat at worst a climb into a stiff headwind. So windy the tops of my bottles where whistling. So windy I stalled going down the backside of a roller. It lasted forever. I can’t describe how windy it was. There was no escaping it, I was always into the wind, by myself. Yuck. AND, I’d have to do it twice. I went into a dark place, only thoughts of Rim Rock and Barrel Roll pulled me out. I climbed up the switchbacks and the wind was brutal, into the wind was a climb, with the wind a descent. I rolled up to the 50/100 split and saw the sign was hard to distinguish to get to the second loop of Barrel Trail. I made sure the 100 mile guy behind me saw the sign and continued away. The exposed climbs blowing sideways meant I had to focus to stay on the singletrack, no mental rest. For some reason I thought the cutoff was 2 at this aid station. I got there at 2:45 and was happy to be able to go out again. No Zen this time, straight up the hill and heading into the fun stuff before hell. I was told the next cutoff was 430 and wondered if I’d make it. It took soo much out of me mentally. I had no power in my legs and the wind was in my head. The dark place I was before was nothing compared to where I was on the second loop. I hadn’t given up, and wasn’t going to but doubts were creeping in. I looked off into the distant a bunch, trying to see what there was to see, remembering that Lynn was back home and I didn’t want to come back without a finish. I saw two people on the end of that brutal section before the road turned towards Rim Rock…a man and a woman put for a pleasure ride. Simply chatting with them lifted my spirits enough to push a bit more. When I pulled into the checkpoint my garmin beeped… it was 430 on the nose. Last possible moment. Some dude was sitting there and saying something about going back. He’d been sitting there a while, I hadn’t seen him ahead of me in teh last ten miles. The wind was howling I couldn’t make out what he was saying, other than blah blah blah I quit. He didn’t hurt. He wasn’t writhing in agony. He just looked tired. Maybe this was in his backyard. I have given friends the ‘just ride with me speech, just keep moving’. Not a total stranger, besides I had my own demons I was fighting. These races are opportunities to learn about oneself; they strip you down and expose your soul. I ‘ripped’ through Rim Rock remembering the fun from the day prior, ok maybe not ripped but it felt like it. I climbed up to the last aid station and I was filling bottles Jeff saw me. I was so stoked to see him especially coming from such a dark place. We gave each other a hug, knew we had it, and agreed that today wasn’t your everyday NUE race. I had easily made that aid station and we had two hours to finish. Seeing him sparked me to get through the last 14 miles. I rode the last bit taking care to see the surroundings while finally being able to mentally relax. I had been stressed for the last 4 hours. The start finish arch had been taken down, because of the wind. I cruised up to the timer with a huge kiss of the ring and finished with a power slide. They were having the awards at that moment. I was happy to hear Cheryl win; I went to the van saw Jeff and called Lynn. I haven’t been emotional finishing one of these since I finished my first, some five years ago, I’ll admit it this time I shed a tear. I put a lot of work into this, and skated through on determination.
The wind- High wind adivsory warning, sustained of 30 and gusts up to 60 were reported. No wonder it damaged me so…
Three months ago I was 195 pounds, I set two goals lose 20# and finish the True Grit Epic.
I succeeded on both. It couldn’t have happened without my wife, who is simply the greatest. Thank you babe, I love you.
Next NUE for me is Mohican 100, Loudonville, OH.