Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ouachita Race Report

Ouachita Challenge 2007 Race Report

Day One: The Drive

Dan Jansen and I left Michigan early Friday morning for the 900ish mile drive to Arkansas. Most of the drive went well; no bad weather and no car issues. We made it to Little Rock in time for dinner with the rest of the crew who were traveling in another vehicle: Danielle, Scott, Bonnie and Barry. The food was good, and we were back on the road at a reasonable hour.

The last stretch of this trip was a bit more interesting. To get to the cabin where we would spend the weekend, we had to traverse several tiny, twisting dirt roads. Not fun at midnight. We eventually found the main cabin for the campground where we were staying, but the Deliverance rejects that were running the place sent us driving all over the backwoods of Arkansas looking for our cabin. Also, we were concerned because the rest of our group who were right behind us as we left the restaurant were no where to be found. Just when things looked like they might get ugly, the rest of the crew showed up and we found our actual cabin. Of course, but this point it was about 1 AM but at least we had a place to crash.

Day Two: Foreshadowing

The Plan was to get up a bit early, have breakfast, and get in a massive preride of four to six hours. Most of us had decided that pushing for a good result in this race was not a good idea, since we had all been [sick/up too late/stick up butt/skirt too tight/not enough beer] too really make our best effort. Therefore, why not enjoy the trails by doing a huge pre-ride on Saturday and riding for fun on Sunday?

What actually happened is that we slept in till about noon on Saturday, messed around getting breakfast and packing and didn’t get to Oden to start out preride until around 2 PM. Everybody but Barry and I started to pre-ride, while he and I drove back to the cabin to get a. my bike shoes and b. his front wheel. Hey, what the heck. Just gotta role with it. In the end, I got in about two hours and 30 miles of riding.

Day Three: Endurance can mean so many things…

Everybody was up at 5AM to pack and eat. We got to the start without any drama.

I was feeling pretty good on the first climb. I didn’t start too hard, so I was able to pick people off on the way up. I got to look at some nice bikes and say hello to some cool industry folks. I got to the top and got into the singletrack.

The Ouchita Trail singletrack was mostly fun to ride. At least, where it was possible to ride I enjoyed it! I was very glad that I ran 29” wheels and a suspension fork. The Reba worked very well; I didn’t notice the weight on the climbs (!) and I know it let me make mistakes that would have resulted in a crash with a rigid fork. Parts of the course were still not worth the risk to ride, mostly steepish uphill sections with lots of rock piles. Overall, I was still fresh in this section and in good spirits.

Next up was a long dirt and paved road section. This was not great for me, as I had a pretty easy gear and was forced to spin like a crazed hamster. Several geared bikes passed me, and one singlespeeder got by me here as well. Overall, I was still feeling pretty good. It was getting warm, and I was stopping to take some electrolyte pills about every hour or so. My back was a bit sore, so I took some advil as well. But in general, I was feeling pretty good.

As I got within sight of the Womble Trail, I saw Danielle pulling out of the aid station. Here is where I made my first mistake: I skipped the aid station to try and catch her. It felt like I had enough Gu2O in my pack to make it to the next aid station. As soon as I got on the Womble Trail I knew I should have stopped. It was very hot and stuffy back there. My Gu2O was very warm and no longer refreshing. I started to think that I wouldn’t have enough fluid to make it to the checkpoint. Although I tried to tell myself to keep pushing and drink as much as I wanted, I know I slowed down and tried to conserve fluid. I ended up crawling through this section.

At last I made it to the last water stop. I drank several glasses of water and filled my half-filled my camelback. I was pretty messed up at that point. I noticed that riders seemed to be coming from two directions; from the trail that I had just completed and from the dirt road. I asked the volunteer what was going on, and he told me that the course looped back around to this spot on the way to the finish. They also told me that I had about 15 miles to go.

Here is where I made my second and most critical mistake: After getting my water, I took off down the road instead of following the rest of the Womble Trail. I was busy drinking water and enjoying the breeze. I was passed by a few geared riders on the road, so I knew I was on course. I was wondering when the course would loop back to the checkpoint when I saw a sign that said “Finish” and a volunteer told me that I was almost done! I was pissed, because I only had 50 miles on my computer. I talked to the volunteer for a few minutes, and it dawned on me that I should have crossed the road back at the last water stop. I was pissed because I knew that my chance for a respectable result was gone, but I knew I didn’t want to DNF. So I turned around and rode back to the checkpoint and got back on course.

The rest of the race was anticlimactic. I did the last little section of the Womble and the dirt road. I felt pretty good, but I didn’t push it because I knew there was no point. I finished in just over 7 hours. My goal was 6 hours, and I was on track for about 6:20 or so before my error.

Even though I didn’t have a great result, the race was still a success. I finished under adverse conditions. The bike worked extremely well. My fitness was pretty good, considering that I had been sick for a week. I got in a great day of riding on some very challenging trail.

So, with the race over I was free to enjoy a beer and kick back. Oh, wait a minute; I still have to drive 900 miles back to Michigan today! I shower and Dan and I load up the car and get on the road at about 6PM. We drive straight through the night, arriving in GR at 7:45 AM on Monday. I shower, change my clothes and head to work. I eventually get to bed at 10PM Monday evening. That means I was up for most of 40 hours, 7 of which were hammering on a bike! Ah, the things we do to race our bikes...


3p0 said...

Oh my dear god man, get some sleep.

good race hu,

see ya there next year.

Cornbread said...

Hey Joe, I can't begin to thank you for your kindness at the race. Most racers would have blown past me without a word. In fact, many did.

Those E-caps helped me get to the next aid station. Thanks for being an ambassador to the sport. True class my man. I owe you a beer at the next one.

Joe Partridge said...


No sweat; I've been the guy on the side of the road with the cramps. I'll take you up on that beer sometime!


paula said...

Great recap. Sorry about all the bad luck!! But, at least you've gotten it all out of the way before the season really kicks in! Should be smooth sailing from here on out, huh? :-)

alexdolpp said...

Nice work. Both the ride and the drive!