Friday, July 18, 2008

Only Fools Rush In

The weather forecast changed Friday morning and the chance of rain disappeared. Therefore, Raja's idea to do a preride of the Fool's Gold race course came back into the wkd ride picture. It was either that or do a road ride with the atlbike gang. I was in need of a road ride, but my partiality to mtn biking made me vote for the Fools ride. Fools do rush in, don't they?

There's nothing like giving folks a little advance notice. The email went out Friday at 11:00. Fools Gold 50 mile preride on Saturday at 8:30, no slacking, no regrouping, this is not a game. You can imagine all the takers we had beating down our door. Andres and the Colombians had already arranged their preride as well, but were starting a bit earlier than I could stomach. Perhaps we'll run into them. Last year we met Andres and Carlos at the inaugural Fools Gold preride, and it was definitely a memorable adventure! Something tells me this one won't be as special. Who knows.
Robb had a new Ellsworth to test ride and was eager to put his name on the sign up sheet. I FOOLishly posted the ride on the sorba forum. All that did was entice Mikey to abandon his roadie gap plans and come join us. We thought we would be safe from the wrath of this hard hitter since he had said he was doing the gaps. Who else would be there to torture me for 6 hours in 90 degree heat?

Another early to bed Friday night in preparation for the now traditional 0:darkhundred Saturday morning wakeup call. Friday nights at our house are getting to be wild and crazy .

We rolled up to the game check station off FS77 at 8am. Scubacruz and RSutton were already there. We had passed Andres on the highway coming up, so I guess he did not get as early a start as planned. They must have parked at the proper race start at Camp Wahsega, because we never saw them again.

Robb was very excited about his latest test ride.

I was excited about the color. Just like the one Raja rode in Moab, I personally think it's a cool shade for a guy to ride. #4 in production! Way cool.

Mikey rolled in as well as Bobby Higgins. Our team was complete. Six innocent victims. Little did we know what strange events our day would hold.

The weather forecast was for clear skies. No chance of rain, I repeat, no chance of rain. Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Robb was a bit concerned with his front F29 shock, as it did not seem to be holding air. Uh oh. Not a good way to start an epic 50 miler.

We rolled out from the game check backtracking on 77 in order to pick up the race course at Turner Creek. Instead of beginning from the official race start, Camp Wahsega, we opted to start in the "middle" of the course. The game check station is about the halfway point when you chart the course as a figure 8, and makes the perfect water drop without involving car shuttles. Raja chose for us to pick up the course with the singletrack immediately, getting much of that done first in lieu of the long gravel climb up Cooper Gap. I liked this plan. Bull Mtn singletrack is rough at best. Last year when we hit the section of trail after the halfway mark, the fatigue in my body did not enjoy the bumping and bopping. This way we could do it in the beginning stages of fatigue.

Turner Creek is a nice piece of singletrack with good flow. It makes me mad to see evidence of horse usage, since they are NOT supposed to be on this particular trail. Don't get me started.

My legs felt pretty good at the beginning. I had hopes that this would be a decent ride for me. Last year's Fools Gold preride was a banner day for me. I felt strong and pulled out an impressive ride, at least to me. How would things shake out this time? I've learned through the years, things rarely go great twice in a row.

At the end of Turners, we turned right on the forest service road and headed back up the short climb towards 77 to pick up Jones Creek singletrack.

Not too far into the trail we were greeted with a nasty steep climb. My legs felt super and the MotoLite motored up without any problem. I love this bike so much more than the Blur. My brain is almost deprogrammed from the knee jerk reaction I had with the Blur of pedal strikes. Sometimes I look for crazy things to go over just to put it to the test.

Scubacruz was on his 29r singlespeed. It would require the strength of Hercules to make this climb with a 32x20, but Raja and Robb had gears to help them make the grind. Good job guys.

On down the trail rolling along pretty fast track, out through a field. Oops, lost my hammergel flask from its stem holster. Better retrieve it. That's the first time that has happened.

There are lots of little hidden sand pockets all along the trail. I highly recommend keeping a heads up for those surprises and keep your weight back to pull it out in case your front end gets crazy. The trail goes by the dam through overgrown brush and then climbs up to Bull Mtn on doubletrack.

At the entrance to the Bull Mtn singletrack, Robb reached the stage of acceptance and acknowledged he could not continue on with his front shock in this state. Bummer. We lost contestant #1.

Time to head up the Bull Mtn singletrack. The trail has significantly rutted out since our last visit earlier this year. But I am still partial to it for its beauty as you ride along through a sea of rhododendron.
Climb, climb, climb and we finally reach another intersection where the course turns left. Mikey was having trouble with his rear wheel. It is not moving freely and he's afraid it's the hub. Another decision had to be made to abandon. Since he's doing ORAMM next weekend, this was probably a good thing to discover now and remedy easily.
We lost contestant #2. This was getting eerie.

The plan was to ride back by the cars around the halfway mark to refuel. I had FOOLishly decided to bring the Nikon D40 with me on the first half of the ride. Having the camera completely messed with my concentration, not to mention added 3 extra pounds to my load. Instead of staying focused on the ride, I was constantly trying to strategize my next photo op. When I would get a photo op, the others were eating and drinking while I was setting up the shot. As a result, I kept missing my opportunities to keep the fuel flowing in my body.

On any other ride after some shots are taken, I hop on the bike and sprint to catch back up with the group. Today was different. With such a long distance on the agenda, it was imperative to keep my heart rate in check and avoid lots of sprinting. After the pics were taken, the camera put away, and the group long gone, I was not about to kill myself to close the gap. Therefore, I found myself off the back more often than not. It didn't take long for me to realize that having the "real" camera along for the ride was messing up my rhythm and focus.

We weren't really out on a social/fun ride. There was a serious goal at hand that did require a certain amount of focus. I quickly decided to ditch this small child from my back as soon as we got to the refuel spot.

With great trepidation, the 4 of us continued on the trail towards Bear Hare. Once again, I was so glad Raja chose for us to do this part of the course first. It seemed particularly rough with rocks and roots. Bouncing all over the place, I was having a hard time keeping a line, and we were barely 1 1/2 hrs into the ride. If I could just get rid of this stupid camera. The weight distribution was messed up in my camelbak, continually lodging it to one side of my back. Being one that is easily distracted, I let this annoy me. Focus, darnit, focus! Off the back for the umpteenth time, I needed a body to focus on ahead of me. There was none to be found.

My heartrate monitor registered approved numbers, though it felt like my effort was much higher. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I was NOT going to dip into the 150bpm range today. Using up any of the reserve tap would only spell disaster in the end, and I now have enough sense to ignore pride and listen to common sense and experience.

At the split off for Bear Hare, the guys were waiting for me. I hate having someone wait on me. I could feel it in my bones. This was not going to be the day for which I had hoped. On, on.

Bear Hare seems to get rockier each visit, but the climb part of it is still one of my favorites. The sound of water rushing below is heard through the thick cover of rhododendron. A short little rocky descent across Lance creek is the sign you are about to hit a short nasty climb. Once again, I startled myself by making the climb. Quite easily I might add! I commented to Raja that it was the easiest that piece of track has ever been. His grunt did not convey he had the same experience. It must be my bike, cause it sure ain't me.

Once you top out after the steep pitch, it's 95% downhill. Rough rough rough downhill. The kind you'd sell your mother for in trade for a full suspension rig. I do not understand how Scubacruz rode it on his rigid SS and still kept all his teeth intact (mind you, a photo makes the terrain look flat).

Bobby and Scubacruz were already en route down the trail. I was happy to have Raja to follow on this downhill, because the focus would do me a world of good. Downhilling is not my thing, and I can go much faster if there is a rabbit to chase. As I was going through the chant in my mind; relax, focus, straight axis, look ahe......Ah! What's Raja doing?! He had made an abrupt change of course to the left and then launched through the air, bouncing off trees, doing the tuck and roll. Oh crap.

He sat there for a while. Are you okay? You okay? I did not see massive amounts of blood spewing out anywhere. Relief. My EMT badge was at home, please don't make me go get it. We put the pieces back together and carried on down the trail.

Talk about messing up your focus. Raja was the one that crashed, and yet I still could not keep up with him. All of sudden I was consumed with the fresh revelation of "Dang, this is so dangerous! I could really get hurt!" Ya think? Of course you can get hurt, you dork, but you cannot think about that. It's not going to change anything. You can get hurt in your own kitchen (maybe that's why I avoid cooking).

Bear Hare's downhill is definitely the roughest part of the entire course. If you can survive that, you can make it. At least make it to the second half of the dowhill; the gravel doubletrack. Actually, the second section is probably the most dangerous. We have been witness to more crashes there than the singletrack. I had my worst mtn bike accident on this part, tearing a tendon and cracking my helmet. Had to get physical therapy for months. You betcha I think about that EVERY time I bomb ever so tentatively down that section.

The 4 of us made it down successfully without incident, hung a left and then a right to cross over Lance Creek.

The cold mountain water felt like heaven. The sizzling could be heard as it splashed on our legs through the 92 degree air.

We climbed up the doubletrack back in the direction of the Bull Mtn, passing by the whoop-d-doo climb to continue on towards FS28B. It's not a long climb when you're doing a 25 mile ride, but seems longer when you're going for 50. Take note of the lovely shack on your left with a refrigerator out front with other sundry items. I took a picture, but accidentally deleted it, doh!

Now I can feel that odd sensation in the legs that is not quite cramping, but the precursor just to let you know you better not make a false move. It has not even been 3 hours and I have not dipped over 150bpm for more than 1 minute total. Why is this happening? How does my body know it's doing more than a 3 hr tour? Who told it? Last Saturday I rode 4 hours at Raccoon and never had a hint of cramping. Mysterious. The body is a mysterious thing. Fine. I'll ride off the back all day if necessary. I will survive today.

We dumped out to the forest service road and rolled along a short distance before popping back into a newer section of singletrack that remains nameless to me. I call it the nice piece of singletrack that the horses keep messing up.

From this direction it is nice and flowing, but you must watch out for the sand in almost every corner. Keep your speed under control, or you are going down inevitably hitting a tree. This is a tight trail. Scrubacruz was in front, and I thought surely I could ride his tail. He's on a singlespeed for crying out loud, and we're going downhill. Guess again. He worked me and kept me on my toes. Did not ride his tail, but rather worked my tail off to stay with him. That's fun.

We popped back out onto FS28B and quickly turned left onto FS2B. I showed no remorse as we rode past the trailhead to Jake Mtn. I do not miss that section of last year's course. There was a bit of remorse over seeing this on the trail though.

It is summertime in Georgia, and cyclists are not the only creatures out on the trail. Raja tells me over and over, assume every stick is a snake until proven otherwise. He does not like snakes.

I keep checking on Raja, "How are you feeling? Can you still move your arm?" Yea, yea. He seems more irritated than anything else, and his saddle has been buggered up making him sit at an angle. His housing has been messed up from the get go, and is not helping matters. "I think I'm going to bail," he informs me as we ride back towards 77 to the game check.

It is as though someone put a pin in a balloon, and all the air came bursting out deflating me. As much as I love and care for Raja, my heart was set on conquering the Fools Gold course. He heard the disappointment in my voice and immediately said, "Oh, that's okay, I'll continue on and do it." There was no need for martyrdom today, but he tried furiously to fix the RacerX housing so it would shift. How could I get him to give up?

"Puhleeeeeeeez, just bag this and go to the Demo Days at Blankets. Let me stay here and ride with Scubacruz and Bobby," I begged him. Scubacruz had graciously agreed to drive me to Blankets afterwards, which would work out fine for all involved. Raja really wanted to test ride a Pivot, and there just happened to be one waiting for him at the Blankets trailhead. He relented and loaded up his bike while we loaded up our camelbaks. There goes contestant #3. Bye! Love you! Be careful! Hope to see you in one piece in 4 more hours.

What was I thinking? Me, a little 115lb girl, riding with the likes of 2 hammerheads on a grueling race course in 90 degree heat, with God knows what will be thrown at us. I tried NOT to think about it and just kept on task. The Nikon had been tucked away in Scuba's truck, and all I had was the tiny uncumbersome Canon SD1000. What a load off my mind, and my back.

From the game check rest stop, we pedaled down FS28 towards No Tell singletrack. First we had to climb up a doubletrack road, forever. I could not help but notice the sun was no longer blazing down on our backs. Hmmm, the sky looks awful dark for a sunny day? What is going on now? You've got to be joking. Rain? I'm going to have to deal with rain? I tried not to think about it, just keep moving forward. You've been through worse than this, it'll be over with in a matter of hours.

I watched Bobby and Scubacruz pull away, but could not do anything about it. At least they were not out of sight, just enough ahead to annoy me. Dang, I don't remember this road being so stinkin' long. Have they moved the trailhead?

No-Tell singletrack trailhead eventually came into view, and we took the right into the overgrown tight trail. Normally we ride this trail from the other direction, climbing the doubletrack and descending the singletrack. Climbing from this way would be a real challenge. I've only done it this way once on last year's Fools Gold preride. I recall it was extremely difficult, and think there was walking involved.

Quietly I followed behind the 2 guys while giving enough cushion of room in order to approach the climb unencumbered. I know this trail like the back of my hand, and knew there wasn't much time till the challenge began. Bobby was ahead of me, but about halfway up he decided to walk. Seeing a rider dismount ahead always heightens my senses; is there an obstacle ahead, is it getting steeper, shoot...I'm going to do this. For the third time today, the climb went effortlessly and before I knew it we were at the top. Huh? I was waiting for the really difficult part. Wow. I wish it could always be this way. In silence I relished in the sheer joy that feeling brought me.

No time to gloat, we just continued on as the rain ever so gently brushed down upon us. That's right, no chance of rain today, except where Fools rush in...on the woods....on muddy trails.

The descent of No-Tell is doubletrack that eventually ends back on FS28. Scubacruz stopped after we went around the gate, standing there with a strange look about him. He calmly said, "I need to tell ya'll......" Oh great, what now? Is he getting ready to die, and his last request is for us to tell his wife he loves her?

He had gotten stung on his tongue back on the climb, and he could feel it starting to swell. Geez! Should we be worried? What if I have to perform a tracheotomy? I'd have to use my camelbak tubing. Then how would I drink water for the rest of the ride? He assured us he was okay and could continue on with the ride. Bobby and I agreed to watch for any unusual behavior like passing out or flailing of the arms.

From the end of No-Tell, we took a right on the FS road climbing just a short bit to Black Branch Trail to our left. The trail climbs gently and then turns downward for a fun bit of downhilling! The rain hasn't made things sloppy yet, in fact it's the perfect combo of tackiness. The downhill is interrupted all too soon with the climb back out.

This is another challenging climb made tricky by a strategically placed rut running the length of the 1,000 mile long ascent. It seems like 1,000 miles. I switched from slow donkey mode to climbing goat mode. This was my 4th challenge of the day, and I really wanted to make this without dabbing. Scubacruz had to walk a short bit and Bobby dabbed a few times, but I refused to let that shake me. As if by magic, I picked my way up the nasty trail. It was long and arduous and I felt every second of it.

The rest of the trail is enjoyable as it rolls along through the thick woods. The tranquility was shattered as the trail took its last upward pitch out in the open with the 900 degree heat hitting us like a ton of bricks. My legs all but came to a complete halt as I tried desperately to spin the pedals in my lowest gear. Bobby patiently rode behind me as I tried to get him to go around me. So humiliating, but what a nice gentleman.

Scubacruz was waiting just ahead at a left turn into a short bit of singletrack. "Let me see your tongue" I demanded. Can you speak clearly? Completely unshaken by the whole ordeal, he lead us up the short climb that quickly led down dumping us out on a gravel road. The gravel road took us back to FS28 where we went right for our next climbing session. Montgomery Creek.

This really is an eternal climb. Fortunately the heavens had opened here before we arrived, and we were still only riding in a light dusting of rain. The ground showed evidence of the downpour and big mud holes had to be avoided. My tires worked laboriously in the soft ground, and I reached that dreaded place I inevitably go to in my mind midway through a long endurance event.

Being by myself, again, I reached for every bit of knowledge learned from years of experience. Just work through it, keep pedaling, eat, drink, head up, take a picture, think happy thoughts. I always think of the line our friend, Scott, used to say with his best english accent during our epic adventures back in our "fit" days; "Master, it could be worse, it could be raining." Well, it was, but it wasn't pouring. Look at the bright side! Besides, I should be worrying about Raja. He was the one that got banged up and bruised. I was simply a fatigued, slow donkey.

The only thing left for our ride was the climb up Cooper Gap, a long gravel road climb. Considering the pathetic state I was in, I wanted to panic as I tried to visualize my last hurdle. Panicking would profit me nothing. I would make the climb like every other climb, one pedal stroke at a time, and then it would be over. That simple.

Right now I had to deal with the task at hand, Montgomery Creek climb. It is a pretty climb, if you're into that sort of thing.

Last year's preride, we jumped the gun too early and took the wrong singletrack to Black Falls. This time we knew better and continued on another 500 miles to the proper trailhead. For the first time in eons, I was doing something new at Bull Mtn. Having been riding these trails for 20 years, there's rarely a new section for me. It was a delicious piece of singletrack with low hanging thick foliage. The humidity was at 120% thanks to the downpour that preceded us, and my glasses were completely fogged over. I cannot see without them, but I could not see with them. What's a girl to do? Slick, narrow, wet, unfamiliar singletrack. Enjoy the sensation, because I cannot see.

The trail joined up with the familiar part of Black Falls trail. The rushing sound of the Falls is exuberating. An inspiring spot in the woods, it begs for you to sit down and have a picnic with your lover. Problem is, my lover is a 100 miles away and I've got miles to go before I can have a picnic anywhere. Admire the view from here, Bobby, we must carry on the ride.

I like the climb out of Black Falls, and my 2nd wind began to kick in as I felt a little life creep into my legs. The ground appeared drier on this side and the rain had stopped. Quickly we were out of the enchanted forest and on the forest service road.

A left turn would take us up Cooper Gap climb, along the ridge, then down Winding Stair and we would be done! So, why did Scubacruz turn right? Come back here, what are you doing?

"I'm not doing Cooper Gap climb," Scuba says with a very serious face. Oh. Guess I'm not either, cause I'm with you!

I glanced over to Bobby, and knew that look in his eyes. He, like me, woke up this morning bent and determined to do this thing. "If ya'll don't mind, I'm going to go up Cooper and do the rest of the ride," Bobby said, rather matter of fact. Slightly deflated and disappointed, I completely understood and urged him to go on with the quest. But at the rate things are going today, please please be careful! I insisted he let me know when he got back safe and sound, and we bid him good luck and farewell. Bobby is a super strong rider, and I had no doubt he would fare just fine.
I just prayed Mother Nature would not throw him any surprises. Great guy!

Eliminated contestants #4 & #5 (Scuba and I) headed downhill back to the Game Check Station, passing Camp Wahsega along the way. Wahsega is the start/finish for the real Fools Gold race. Our race today was more like the Fools Mica, the only mineral that kept shining back up at me as I stared down at the dirt road. No gold for me today, which is just as well. My performance was sorely lacking, and that last bit of the course would have definitely put me in some serious deficit.

As fate would have it, I'm glad Scubacruz was the mole in our group. Bobby was the sole survivor and deserving winner of our Fools Survivor Game. As we gingerly pedaled back to the car, I wondered what Bobby would do with all his winnings;) Would he share any of it with me? Well done, Bobby! You're no Fool. Only Fools Rush In, and I definitely played the Fool today.

By the time we rolled up to the truck, 42 miles had turned over. I was satisfied. 4 hrs and 38 minutes ride time. I have no idea how long we were out there. My lower back was happy to be done, and the heat would have surely done me in for good. Bobby would have had to mark where he left my body, so I'm glad not to have been a burden to him.

Scubacruz dropped me off at Blankets with Raja where Kevin was wrapping up the Outspokin Demo Days. I looked suspiciously into the back of my empty trunk. Hmmmm, I'm guessing Raja is going to be bringing home yet another bike with us. A Pivot, maybe? Of course, we were now a family of 5; 1 adult, 1 little boy, and 3 bikes. Raja had enjoyed the Pivot enough to want to take it out for more testing. Apparently he was recovered from his accident and on to bigger and better things. Boys are so easily distracted.

The next day, Raja was up bright and early to head off to Blankets yet again for some real serious testing. Robb, Jdubbya, and Robin joined in the work, eager to hear what comments Rajasan would say, if any. All I can say is the verdict is still out (do we really believe a verdict will be made?) and further testing is set for Big Creek. Stay tuned!

I was not feeling the call to go to Blankets, but rather tempted to join some of my friends for some singlespeed fun at Ft. Yargo. The last time I was there was for the 2007 GA State Singlespeed Championships. Since I just trashed myself less than 24hrs ago, I figure my ride will feel about the same as the race a year ago, painful.

Speedy, CliffordBRD, Psychobillycadillac, and ShortBus were my escorts for the day. At first, I was silently questioning my sanity. A singlespeed ride?!? For goodness sake, honey, you're not 25 anymore. You're not 35 either. Are you insane? Are you trying to kill yourself? Ah, no worries. I could not have picked a better group of guys to hang with on a bike. We'll have fun even if we're crawling to the ER dragging our bikes behind us.

I had forgotten just how incredibly FUN the trails at Ft Yargo are! The flow is perfection, especially on my quick responsive Litespeed. Never mind the occasional grind up a short climb, the zippin' and flyin' made it worth it. I was having an absolute ball!

It was hot as Hades, but that was okay. I forgot to refill my water before our 2nd lap, but that was okay. I almost crawled back the last 2 miles, but that was okay. This was just what the doctor ordered, and I would not have had half as much fun if I had chosen to do anything else, air conditioned or not.

Fools may rush in, but you can call me a fool any day. I am without a doubt, a Fool for biking.


Robb Sutton (198) said...


Great write-up...thanks for letting me attempt to keep up with your other half all weekend. He wore my legs out!

Ony said...

What an awesome tale of an awesome weekend. I love the way you write and how the pictures complete the story.

Anonymous said...

Another great story! Thanks for being so good at telling them! Something's wrong with your camera... my butt looks way too big in all of those shots! :) Dooh! It's not the camera! :) It must be the black shorts! :0 Sorry for not mentioning not wanting any of Cooper climbing before we started on the 2nd half! The climbing would be tough but the real pain would have been (was last year) the washboard bumps at highspeed on the rigid fork. I haven't toughed up enough or lighted up enough to be able to handle too many of those babies! Thanks again for sharing the ride, the pictures and the friendly company! :) Neal

SandPine said...

Wow, what a great write up. I wish I could write posts like yours. Thanks for sharing all those pics and description of the route. I am now thinking twice about what I have signed up for. I never ridden there either.

Hey, will ScubaCruz do this gain on 32x20 or change to something else? I hear Eddie did it mostly on a 32x20 so that puts my weak legs at like a 21 or 22T. Thanks again.

Ken said...

What a great write up and photos of the weekend. That Fool's Gold route sounds like a huge challenge, am very impressed with the whole bunch of you! Enjoyed the ride at Yargo, didn't seem like Fool's Mica slowed you down much on Sunday!

chocolate girl said...

Sandpine, I guess it's okay for me to speak for Scuba...he's not going to be doing the race, so you need not worry about chasing him;-) Now as for Eddie, you're on your own for that rabbit. I couldn't catch him with 50 gears AND an engine. Have a great race!

Namrita O'Dea said...

great post and pictures...again! thanks for taking all the FG route pics..

sandpine..i would go with a 32x20 or 32x21 at the very easiest for the 100 mile course. 32x19 works well for the 50 miles but would be tough for another loop.