Sunday, February 1, 2015

GHORBA Even Bigger Big Ring Challenge Part I: The Prep....or lack thereof.

So following the disappointing DNF on the Wild Azalea Trail Challenge I immediately went home to find a similar event to prove that I could complete.  I live in Central Louisiana, ain't much going on in these parts.  It didn't take long to find something in Texas within a decent driving distance.  The Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association was hosting a mountain bike marathon at Double Lake Recreation Area near Cold Spring, Texas.  My Mukluk was still in need of some love following the last event and I was waiting on some brake pads to arrive with a new bike frame I ordered.  I saw on the flier that you can use your cyclocross for all three events.  Sounds good to me, I have my Giant Revolt it can do a lot of things.  It would take up to a two inch tire but I didn't want to solicit anymore funds for fear that the whole operation would get shut down so I would run my 40mm Clement MSO tires.  Then life happened and I didn't get a chance to ride for a couple of weeks.

But before I go into the race I would like to talk about the 48 hours leading up to the event on 17 January.  It really is a reflection of the chaos that is my life.  In Mid-December my wife knocked one of the bikes off of a hook and it dented the top tube of my Giant Revolt bike.

I was sad.  I really didn't want to spend money on a new frame, at least one I already owned.  I would like to spend $ on other stuff.  Anyway, my favorite bike shop, Bike and Hike in Rock Island, IL ordered a frame for me.  Then the holidays happened and it didn't arrive. I called and they shipped it and it arrived a few days before the event and much to my shock it was atomic blue!  I was told it would be gray, had I known it would be this amazingly obnoxious blue I would have ordered a Surly Ogre to replace my old one that I sold.  So 48 hours out I put it together after work but the steer tube was way too long and I didn't have a star nut.  Great, the nearest bike shop is 50 miles away.  But I had a plan, sort of.

 I was expecting a grey frame.  I was a little shocked when I opened the box.  

It is....BLUE.  I figured it would grow on me.  It hasn't!

It just so happened that my daughter had a doctors appointment in a neighboring community on the 16th, the day I was going to head to Cold Spring, TX.  By neighboring it is 40 miles East.  I would take her to that then head North 30 miles to the bike shop in Alexandria where they could quickly cut the steer tube, install a star nut and I could be on my way 50 miles back to the house.  Easy enough?  Except......we had an issue at work that came up Thursday afternoon and I needed to go and deal with it the next morning at 8 a.m.

Also, I told a friend I would take his installation duty which is an overnight deal where you do some checks on post before midnight and after midnight.  No problem......except he told me the wrong night and it turned out to be on the 15th which meant I wouldn't be able to pack the night before like I had planned.  So I did my stuff at night and went to bed at midnight, then I got up at about 4 a.m. did the stuff in the morning checked out, went at 8 a.m. and negotiated for some training resources for an hour and a half and picked up my daughter and bike and hit the road.  Easy, a day in the life of the Irish Tsunami.

We arrived at the doctors office and the room was packed.  He is a specialist in a small town and we waited for an hour and a half.  By the time we got out of there is was almost noon.  We hit the road and headed north.  An hour later we arrived and I dropped my bike off.  They wanted an hour so we went to get lunch.  The Chick wanted Taco Bell so we got tacos.  Household 6 called and asked if I could go to a party store and get round checkered table cloths with the classic red plaid.  So I found one, but it didn't have that style.  We then headed back to the bike shop and I picked up my bike.

The owner and I spoke for a few minutes and I told him that I was headed to Cold Spring, Texas to tackle a 50 mile race.  He asked me how much I had ridden since the Wild Azalea challenge two weeks earlier.  My response.....NONE!  He laughed and said "I like your training plan."  We were off.  I arrived home at about 3:30 in the afternoon.  I quickly (and poorly) packed my stuff.  What I have learned over the years is that there are essential items; bike, helmet, bicycle shoes, gloves.  Everything else is optional.  I have ridden in the wrong shorts, shirt,  sock-less, water-less.  But they require helmets and Crank Brothers need cleats.  So I hit the road at 5 p.m. and it got dark quickly.  The drive was only 120 miles but here they are country miles with narrow roads, lots of twists and turns, and a ton of small towns; all of which force you to drive slow.

It took close to three hours and I arrived well after dark.  I had planned on camping for two reason as a cost saving feature and the little hotel reminded me of the Bates Motel.  So I found the site.

As I began to drive down this "road" I thought it was a walking path or paved trail.  It was very dark and I began to think of how many scary movies start just like this.  

It was there that that I instantly regretted my decision.  It was a GHORBA group campsite and the guy that was putting together a nice fire was nice enough, but then three other people showed up and I instantly remembered why I don't do many group functions and my anti-social tendencies kicked in.  First off, I have been on active duty for 13 years.  I have been in combat and spent countless hours with all types of people and heard all types of conversations, but this group was a bit offensive for my taste.  Yes, more offensive than the Infantry.  The guy asked me about my bike, a bike designed for gravel and fire/logging roads which had 40 mm Clement MSO tires on it.  I told him that the flier said I could do it on a cyclocross bike.  He then proceeded to tell me all of the reasons I couldn't do it.  I said "well then why did they put it on the flier?"  Nothing like going through everything I had done for the last 36-48 hours just to be told that.

Then at about 9:45 I got an emergency call from work.  Part of my job is to manage reportable incidents and emergencies.  My task is to take the serious incident report and ensure that it is quality enough to send forward.  It involves notifying my boss within a certain timeframe.  I didn't have all of the facts but I didn't want to wait to call at midnight or 1 a.m. so I called my boss at 10:00 p.m.  He didn't answer so I told the guy that called to call me when the report was ready for me to read and clean up (they always need to be cleaned up).  It was getting cold (the low was 35 degrees) and I was tired from the day and the obnoxious company so I went to bed.

Cozy in my sleeping bag my phone began to chirp at about 1:30 a.m.  I had my blackberry but it is hard to read documents and type, especially when it is cold.  It was my boss and I gave him the details and I hit send after struggling to keep warm and type.  I went back to sleep at about 2:00 a.m. and woke up at 4:45 a.m., my usual routine during the week.  It happens fairly naturally.  So I pushed the auto start, got dressed in the cold and jumped into my nice warm suburban with heated seats.  I brought my MSR camp stove but I was cold and tired so I drove to a gas station and got a cup of hot water for my oatmeal.  I then returned and got a good parking spot near the start and ate my oatmeal and read a mountain bike magazine in the warm confines of my car.

At 7 a.m. I went in to register and the organizer was there.  I asked him about the cyclocross bike and he said yeah no problem.  He said there are a lot of roots but it is doable.  So I went out to the car and began to get ready.  That is where I ran into a hiccup.  Remember the bit about what is necessary and what isn't.  Well I had all that was necessary but it was 35 degrees and I didn't have leg or arm warmers packed.  Nor did I have any kind of wind breaker or vest.  So I thought "at least I have a hat".......yeah no hat.  The high was going to be close to 60 degrees but it would be a long morning.

So there I was waiting for the race to start.  I finally saw a couple of cyclocross bikes but they were not signed up for the full 50 miles.  And the race began.  Stay tuned for Part II.

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