Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ouachita Challenge - 80, 8, 4, 5, 3, 9...6

First race of the season!
You may be asking yourself, "What do these numbers mean"? Follow along and I will explain.

Let's start with the flights on Friday. All flights depart on time and arrive on time. Left the house at 5am and the first flight left at 6:30am. Small layovers gave me time to grab some food in between flights. I arrived at the Little Rock International Airport around 6:30 pm after 3 separate flights. As I wait for my items to show up I think to myself what would I do if my bike didn't show up. Well not only did my bike NOT show up but my bag of supplies and clothing didn't show either. I think there were about 4 other passengers whose items didn't show. I should have realized at this point that the weekend wasn't going to turn out for the best.

After a call to the airlines' (I won't name any names) baggage specialist I am told that my luggage and bike will be delivered to my hotel. This happened to me once already before the 2006 Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour race down in TN. Fortunately, everything showed up, but on the morning of the event...little extra stress involved.
My bike and bag arrived Saturday night (race on Sunday) around 5:30pm. This left me little time to build the bike, get in a short pre-ride (around the trails by my hotel) and try to rest.

Moving on to race day.
Here is an explanation of the numbers listed in the Title:

80 - Race distance
8 - Number of flat tires
4 - Number of slashes in both my tires
5 - Number of minutes I beat the final Aid Station cut-off time by
3 - Numbers of miles throughout the race that I walked my bike while waiting to get tubes from other riders (it was harder to walk than ride on the rocks)
9 - Number of total hours it took me to finish the race
6 - Numbers of times I dropped the "F" bomb on the trails

Going back to old-school days of mountain biking, the Ouachita Challenge consisted of either a 60 mile or 80 mile one-loop option. At least 90% was true singletrack trails. Race started on Sunday at 8am with a neutral roll-out on pavement for roughly 2 miles before reaching a dirt road. Pace was mellow. On the first short hill before reaching the doubletrack the pace began to pickup. I was told that there were lots of sharp rocks and that a durable sidewall was a necessity. I was running Stan's in my Schwalbe N.N tires and figured that that would be ok. Damn was I wrong. About a mile on the doubletrack I suffered mt first of flat. Rear tire slashed! Out with the Stan's rim strip , in with a tube. After watching at least 30 riders pass by, I was back on my bike and now without a tube for the next 10-12 miles...the first of 4 Aid Stations.

Trying to bridge back toward the lead riders I was victim of yet another flat. I realized after this flat that my tire had a nice 1-inch slash on the sidewall and that the tube was actually protruding through the tire. After a 3rd flat tire I finally reached Aid Station 1. Contemplating pulling out of the race, I made the commitment to finish this race no matter how long it would take me.
By the time I reached Aid Station 2 I had a total o 5 flat tires. There however, I was able to get some assistance from the volunteers (one in particular whom I can't remember his name, but looked like Napolean Dynamite) and we jerry-rigged my tire by reinforcing the sidewall with ClifBar wrappers and duct tape (if you can't fix it...duct it).

Off I go in pursuit of the next Aid Station. My goal at this point was to make it to each Aid Station without a flat; didn't happen. In total, I flatted an avg. of 2 flats per Aid Station (15-20 miles apart). There were a few other riders having similar issues that I had because we kept passing and each other every few miles. It actually became quite comical, almost like a really bad joke.

Upon reaching the 3rd Aid Station I was told that I made the cut-off time by 5 minutes. It was now around 3pm and the temps were now beginning to drop while the winds began increasing (upwards of 20-30 mph) and I was getting pretty damn cold. Every time I had to walk my bike I got a little colder. Finally I reached the final Aid Station and the final 8 miles was on gravel/paved road.

I reached the finish line around 5:15pm (just over 9 hours) making for one long,"epic", memorable, depressing, awesome ride. That's how I would sum it up. You have to take the good with the bad in these ultra-endurance events because you never know what can and will happen. All I can hope now is that my bad luck for this season has been all used up in this race. It would have been easy to quit after 1 hour, but that's why these early races are called "training" races. Instead I was able to get in 9 hours, knowing that I had one of my worst days on the bike, and still was able to finish.
With all that happened I would highly recommend the Ouachita Challenge race to anyone who is looking for an "epic". The event is well organized, has very friendly volunteers, has some of the sweetest singletrack, and is located in a beautiful part of Arkansas (40 miles west of Hot Springs). Lake Ouachita - viewed from my hotel



Todd Henne said...

Wow what a day! I can mail the H-pack or bring it to Cohutta. Thanks for coming out and congrats on fighting to the finish!

Sloane Anderson said...

If you could sent it to me that would be best.

Loved the event and hope to get back there for revenge.

Anonymous said...

Game On Sloane,

Glad to hear you survived and persevered. Too bad about all the flats but as you say, hopefully you got all of them out with this first event. Also glad to hear the gear made it. Probably no problems with the return flights, right.


Sloane Anderson said...

Of course! All flights on time and no lost luggage. However, I did make it a point to let the airline know how I felt.
New kits look and fit great.