Monday, May 11, 2009

Dirt, Sweat and Gears 12 Hour

This past Saturday I competed in the Dirt, Sweat and Gears 12 Hour just up the road in Fayetteville, Tennessee. This would be the 2nd 12 hour mountain bike event I'd participated in on my off-road unicycle! Unfortunately the weather over the past two weeks had been mostly rain, rain and more rain. I think it was truly wishful thinking to expect the course would be "dry" but we all hoped it would be at least rideable. Boy we sure were in for a surprise!

First the good news: I finished 12th* of 17 in my divison (solo single speed amateur male), 47th* of 78 solo riders and 92nd* of 175 overall (including all the relays). * means that this is of those starters who actually finished at least one 10.6 mile loop (there were many who didn't even complete one lap). But more on that in a minute.



Now the bad news: I only completed two loops (21.2 miles) and it took me 8h 20m to do so! And there was very little riding involved!

So what happened? As we all feared, the heavy rains we've had in this area (over 30 inches over the past two weeks) made a complete mess of the trail system the race course covers. And unlike nice, slippery mud, that is still rideable albeit very carefully; we had the peanut-butter <-> cemet consistency type "clay" soil to contend with for the majority of the 12 hour event! Ironically I did a little pre-riding of the course the afternoon before (Friday) and probably rode more in that warmup that I did during the race! So I ended up placing fairly well simply because it was far easier to carry/push a unicycle around the course than it was to do the same with a bicycle. It was pure chaos. We all started out right as it started to rain. If the rain had held out, the course was dry enough to have been tricky but still rideable that day. But luck wasn't on our side and within a few miles most everybody but the fast starting pros were left alternatively pushing their bikes or else stopped on the side of the trail trying to clear out enough mud with a stick to let the tires roll for another 100 yards! It was very bad! The mud was so binding that you couldn't push any type of wheel through the muck! At one point I just held my unicycle by the seat handle and just dragged the whole stupid thing through the mud as my wheel wouldn't even turn! Finally I sobered up the situation and realized my riding was over so I stopped and cleaned as much mud off the tire as I could and then just shouldered the beast and began to hike for the next 7 hours or so!! At the earliest opportunity, around 4-5 miles, a large number of racers abandoned the course and cut back to the start finish area. Of those who toughed it out one loop, most didn't even start, let alone complete a second loop (this includes relays!). It was quite possibly the worst case scenario. I think the only reason this event was even held was because it is on private property and the owner is a mountain biker himself who built all the trails and this is the only event (or only time to even get to ride these trails) all year. The lack of riding didn't seem to dampen most people's spirits as most folks were well along in their imbibing by the time I finished my first loop; and totally tossed by the time I came around again. Thank heavens the race director, after seeing what lap times people were churning out, decided to not allow anybody back OUT THERE with just 3 hours left in the event. I technically could have started a third, but the fact that my second loop took roughly 4 1/2 hours there was no way I'd finish in time as all loops had to be completed UNDER the 12 hour cutoff. No worries I really didn't want to go back OUT THERE! I actually did get to ride some... The following photo is about the only rideable part of the course; just before the finish!

So it's pretty lame that I didn't get to ride, but I think I still won a lot of respect for sticking out two loops when most didn't. I think I even aggravated a few folks because I got a lot of remarks like, "Well it's a lot EASIER to carry THAT around than this &*(*#!!! bike!!!" HA! Who would have predicted a unicycle would have an unfair advantage at a mountain bike race! Well my reply to all that, which I used several times was, "Well that's why you always need to carry a unicycle around in your trunk; you'll never know when it might just come in handy!"

Here are the obligatory "before" and "after" photos. You can judge for yourself the conditions!