My Wahoo is reading somewhere around mile 120. I am by myself, crunching white gravel under my cx tires. There are about 5 miles of flat road stretching in front of me until the turn around point that roughly marks half way through the lap. Luckily, this will be the last time visiting that spot at least for this year. I am getting tired and my back is getting achy. There is no one in front and no one behind. I keep waiting for Dahn Pahrs aka Four Loko Guy aka Donald Powers aka I don’t know what name he actually goes by to catch up but I still don’t see him. I try not to think to much, just listen to my music and keep the pedals turning. I have a good lead but I also know the 2nd place lady is not too far behind and has a teammate with her to work with.
Croatan Buck Fifty is such a different race from what I am used to racing, but it is incredibly fun and challenging in its own way. The start is at the Carteret Speedway in Swansboro, NC which is right near the coast, near Emerald Isle. Cars filled the infield and tables/coolers/tents and support crews lined the main road through the infield. It almost had the feel of a huge family picnic. It was really fun to see some friends from the east coast mountain biking scene but there were a lot of new faces too.
|In the infield at Cartert Speedway. Photo from @BRETTROTHMEYER|
I have biked once before near the Croatan National Forest at the Holly Shelter Game Land during a residency beach retreat. Let’s just say that biking early in the morning, still slightly drunk or at least very hung-over, in the middle of an incredibly humid NC summer does not exactly leave a favorable impression of a place one’s mind. But I had the day off of work and decided I should give that area another chance.
Matt and Gordon did an incredible job with organization, course markings, lots of cool useful swag including hand-up gloves, ridge supply socks, a cool ridge supply buff. It was a cool morning but promised to warm up. We lined up and followed Matt and Gordon’s motorcycles around the speedway and then down the road to the start of the gravel and the race was on from there.
The pace was pretty tame at the start. I didn’t lose Dylan’s wheel until Savage Road when the entire field got strung out single file zig-zagging down the road to find the best line around the huge deep mudholes. It was actually a really fun road to ride and definitely broke up the monotony of the flat gravel. Matt and Gordon were zooming around on their motos yelling things into the microphone, specifically that I was looking tired and slow. I laughed and then tried to pick up the pace.
|What Savage Road looks like. Photo from @BRETTROTHMEYER|
My race plan was simple. Don’t ride alone. I knew if I could trade pulls, I could get through the miles a lot more easily both mentally and physically than if I was out there by myself. I got into a good group for the 2nd lap. I was with Dahn/Donald who was leading the SS field and 2 other guys who were doing the 100 mile race. We worked together really well trading pulls. I spent a lot of time behind Dahn pondering whether the tattoo on the back of his leg was blue birds, bats or dragons. In the last few miles, our group fell apart a bit, and I came into the finish with one of the 100 mile guys who was wrapping up his race. That also meant my race plan was falling apart. I tried to convince the guy to ride one more lap but he said he was good and wished me luck.
|Riding with Dahn. Photo from @BRETTROTHMEYER|
I hung out at the cooler for a few minutes longer than I normally would waiting for Dahn to come in since I knew he wasn’t far behind. I tried to convince him to keep riding with me but he was mumbling something about his hamstrings. Singlespeeders 😊. I decided I should probably keep racing and set out to finish the last 50 miles solo.
|At the finish. Photo from @BRETTROTHMEYER|
It was pretty awesome race. There are no mountains (I climbed 561 ft in 145 miles) but that also means there are no downhills for recovery. The constant pedaling in the same gear in the same position on the bike presents a different challenge than cresting the highest peak. The gravel can be isolating but the miles tick by really quickly which makes it seem like you are making good progress. Because I was riding in different groups (a big one on the 1st lap, a group of 4-5 on the second lap, and solo on the last lap), each lap seemed unique and doing 3 laps wasn’t boring at all. I can’t wait to be back next year!
|Women's 150 Podium. Showing off our Pit Viper podium sunglasses. So much fun racing with these fast ladies.|
|Jeff got 1st in the men's SS 100 race! Singlespeeders 😊|