Monday, March 29, 2010

Ouachita Challenge - the recap

Oden, AR - Start/Finish of the Ouachita Challenge - Yeah, it's a small town

Wow, what a great weekend. I'm still a bit out of it from the 10 hour marathon session in the car getting back home after the race yesterday. CVO, Shawn and I rolled back into town around 2:30 in the morning and I didn't hit the hay until around 3ish. I haven't slept in past noon since college, but the body and mind definitely needed a recharge after this past weekends fun.

Oh, where to start.....well, how about with the fact that the Ouachita Mountains are beautiful. If you haven't been down there for a mountain bike ride, you should put that on your list of places to ride. Arkansas has one of the IMBA Epic Trails, the Wobble Trail, which is part of the Ouachita Challenge every year. I won't go into great details about the Wobble trail, but will say it's one of the best trails I've ever ridden.

Entrance of the singletrack

Make no mistake, the Ouachita Challenge is one tough cookie. It's an early race which really helps gauge your fitness. The rocks are brutal and there's plenty of climbing and descending which punish the body. Plus, the bike and equipment take a beating as well. Finishing the event without a mechanical or a flat takes luck.

One of the two long gravel climbs prior to entering the singletrack - Sonja Looney off in the distance

The course this year was a good mixture of gravel roads and single track. I'm not sure of the exact distances of each, but I would venture a guess of about half gravel and half singletrack. That's just fine by me cuz I love gravel. Plus trying to find a good spot to eat or drink in the singletrack can be tricky and downright dangerous. Since I opted for water bottles and not a hydration pack, I used the gravel road sections to down a bottle and get some calories in.

Not your typical Nebraska gravel

The gravel down in Arkansas is a bit rockier than the Nebraska variety. You gotta be on your toes even on the gravel sections. The last thing you want to do is tank a big rock or pot hole and get a flat, crash or worse.

CVO being interviewed for the local news - not sure which station

Now on to the actual race. This was my third crack at the Ouachita Challenge (2007, 2009 and 2010). I've had a rough go of it every time and this year was no exception. I guess that's what keeps me coming back.

Rollin' out - recumbent in the distance

The race started out in a mass neutral roll out. The group of 260+ followed a pickup truck who was followed by a recumbent bicycle. Having a recumbent bike lead out was a first for me.

Namitra O'Dea, fellow XXC Mag contributor, sittin' in the best possible wind break position

Neutral roll out was for a couple of miles and then the group made a right hand turn onto the first gravel of the day. Once we hit the gravel it was game on! The pace picked up, but nothing too crazy. Riders were five to six wide most the way to the first gravel climb. Once we hit the first climb the group began to spread out a bit. By the second big climb folks were getting a bit antsy because they know that getting a holeshot entering the first section of singletrack is vital due to the fact there aren't a lot of great places to pass. Jeff Kerkove, Bryan Fawley and a couple others broke away from the main group and got a small gap on the rest of us. I thought about bridging up to them, but didn't want to burn too many matches that early in a 60 mile event. I managed to be the second person of the chase group in the singletrack which was right behind dreadlocked Garth Prosser.

Once in the singletrack I encouraged Garth to give chase of the lead group. We weren't too far back and had a small gap on the rest of the folks behind us. I couldn't believe what happened next. He promptly stopped and got off the trail to let me pass. That's not what I wanted or expected, but it was a very cool gesture. At that point I knew I was in over my head when Garth Prosser is letting me pass.

I tried in vain to catch the lead group and then endo'd in some rocks. The fitness was there, but not the skills. Garth and a few other passed at that point. I'm not a great technical rider and those first sections of singletrack are about as techy as I'll ride all year. A bit further down the trail I went down again in some rocks and banged my already injured left knee. At this point I just wanted to maintain without getting hurt. Last year I got hurt pretty badly and had to take almost a month off the bike. That wasn't gonna happen again this year.

One of the four aid stations stocked with all kinds of goodies

The second section of single track included the dreaded Blow Out Mountain and Ouachita Trail. Those trails have large sections of unrideable (at least for me) rocks. I did a lot of walking and pushing my bike through the second section of singletrack. A few folks got by as they were able to negotiate the sketchy basketball sized rocks.

During that stretch I noticed the back end getting soft. Eventually I couldn't ignore it anymore and had to get off and air it up. I tried the Caffe Latex sealant for the first time for this event. The front tire did great, but the rear wasn't holding air. There were no noticeable holes or gashes anywhere so I figured I could just air it up and hopefully where ever it was leaking would seal. Unfortunately, it didn't. During the tight descents the tire would burp sealant. So I had to air it up about every 30 minutes. Why didn't I throw a tube in right away? I guess cuz I'm lazy and was holding out in hopes of it sealing. I stopped at the second and third aid stations to air it up with a floor pump. When I rolled into the third aid station it had 15 psi. Ha!

After the second and third aid station stops I regained some spots before the rear end got soft again. I rode on a nearly flat tire for a few miles at one point. Finally, I throw up the white flag and decided to throw in a tube. After getting back going again I tanked a rock and pinch flatted. Doh. Another tube and got going again. I rolled into the fourth and final aid station with a nearly flat rear and bummed a tube off a guy who was DNF'ing. Gotta love the floor pumps at that aid stations!

On the positive note, I got to see a lot of the same people throughout the day due to those flats including Fuzzy John. Fuzzy was doing great during the race, but ended up flatting too. I guess it's all about luck.

Part of the Wobble Trail - one of the few pics during the race

Initial results were 26th for the day in the open men's category. I gotta admit I'm bummed on that result especially with the start I had, but it was a great day on the bike and I got to ride some beautiful singletrack. Plus all the Cycle Works/Moose's Tooth crew had great rides. The team had seven folks representin' down in Arkansas this weekend and I'm proud of each and every one of them.

Till next year Ouachita!


mw said...

great write up. i got to get down there sometime.

Thew said...

Good job dude. Regardless of the outcome, it's stuff like this that makes me aspire to ride hard(er).

RD said...

corey, I need to tell you about my rd ghetto juice it's super cheap to make and it works great and your tire looks like you went to strip club as I put glider to the mix...
good job dude

Skip said...

No ice bags on the ride home?

You can't control things like that, particularly on that course. Next year, bro.

Way to give it.

Coach said...

Nice Job Corey!

MG said...

Way to ride, Cornbread. You made the most of the situation and I'm proud of you for hangin' in there and finishing it up strong. You clearly were one of the strongest riders in the field. If that darn rear tire would have just held air a little better, we could have seen more clearly how well those legs of yours stacked up against the comp. I bet it would have been very well...

We'll get many more opportunities to see your power this season though, so you'll get your revenge. Don't worry...

Congratulations once again, my friend. Great effort. And congratulations to everyone who went down and raced.


Cornbread said...

Thanks fellas. It was a great weekend regardless of the race. I'm looking forward to the event next year.

jamesb said...

Good job Corey. I wish luck would have gone your way with the flats. Sounds like you were crushing it!