This is a report of a race I did in January:
The Talon Trails Excruciation Exam was a race which utilized the trails at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, the trails at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, and the paved and dirt roads in between. We traveled 30 miles on trails and 50 miles on roads.
The Excruciation Exam was, in a word, excruciating.
Other than giving birth, this has got to have been the hardest thing I can remember doing.
Ok, this was the hardest thing I can remember doing, making the Tour das Hugel ("100 miles of Austin's most painful hills") look like a ride around my living room.
I knew things were going to be rough when, during the pre-race riders' meeting, I look down and saw that I was already bleeding. The sharp part of my rear quick release skewer had grazed the dry skin of my leg and pierced it.
John and I had decided that we'd ride together, he'd lead on the trails, and I'd lead on the road. The race started with a Lemans-style start, where we ran to a tree and back before mounting our bikes. The most difficult part of this was dodging the cow patties, which we managed to do quite admirably.
The first 6-mile lap through the Bluff Creek Ranch trails went smoothly. John and I were pacing ourselves (my whole goal of this thing was to finish, not necessarily finish well), and we got to the road about 40 minutes later. The weather was cool and misty, with a little bit of wind in our face. We managed to paceline with 1-3 other folks on the 28-mile ride to Rocky Hill Ranch. I learned to not breathe through my mouth when drafting someone on dirt roads, however, or I'd end up with a mouth full of, well, dirt. However, I later found that the extra minerals may have done me some good.
As we rolled into the RHR checkpoint, I hit the "Lap" button on my GPS, so that I could keep separate tracks of the road and trail portions, but the GPS hung on me. It must've been the moisture. Just a minor annoyance, as I wouldn't know how far I had to go on the future legs.
As we started out for the RHR trails, I noticed that my front tire was a bit low. I thought that would probably be helpful for the trail, and I would put more air in it before hitting the road again. Just before we get into the trail, I see Bob (whom I know from the Brazos Valley Mtb Assoc.) taking photos. Hi, Bob! Not too much farther along, I see Joel (also from the BVMBA), also taking pictures. I chat with Joel for a bit while John takes care of some mechanical issue on his bike.
I think that Joel put some bad Ju-Ju on me, because once John and I got started again, my rear derailleur went out of tune. I just couldn't get it to shift right, no matter how much I fiddled with the barrel adjuster. I could only use 2-3 of my rear cogs, so I ended up using my front derailleur as much as, if not more ,than, my rear. Needless to say, this put me in a bit of a foul mood.
But wait! That's not all! Tell them what else we have in store, Johnny!
That's right! We've also got cramps! Cramps in muscles that we didn't even know existed! Off the bike? Voluntarily or not? Have another cramp! One cramp's not enough? If you call now, you'll get a special bonus of cramps in both right quad and right hamstring at the same time! Operators are standing by!
Man, oh, man, that was pain that I haven't experienced before, not even when I broke my arm. With cramps on both sides of my leg, I couldn't move my leg at all. Swear words were not enough. It was primal scream time. After standing there for several minutes, the cramps finally went away. John came back to check up on me, and gave me a couple of Tums that he carries for just such occasions.
The Tums helped.
For about 10 minutes.
Then muscles that hadn't yet cramped decided to take their turn. I finally convinced John to go ahead, and told him that I was planning on bailing if I ever got out of the woods. I then just granny-geared it out of there.
Going up? Granny gear.
Level? Granny gear.
I just walked over anything that looked the least bit technical, and went up, as well as extended climbs.
When I got to the ditch called The Grind, I saw roots on the left side of the entry, and leaves on the right. Not knowing what was under the leaves, I decided to just send my bike down ahead of me. It didn't pick a very good line, because I slipped and fell down, myself, when I followed it on foot.
About the only good thing that happened for me at RHR was that John suggested that I fill my water bottle at one of the water stops, as my camelbak ran out before I got out of the woods.
When I finally exited the woods (queue angelic music here) John was sitting in a chair, waiting for me. I told him that I was done, and that he should go ahead and finish the race. So he left.
I had an hour before the "gate" at RHR shut, so I sat and ate and drank while Susan and Maureen gave me words of encouragement. After about 25 minutes, I decided that it was mostly tailwind on the roads back to Warda, and then it was only 3 miles of trails once I got there, and I didn't want John to be the last person in the race, since he had waited for me, so I pumped up my tires for the road and rolled out.
The road to Warda was pretty uneventful, except that there was more side wind and less tailwind than I expected. My rear derailleur starts working properly again, so things are starting to look up.
I finally get to Warda, and now all I have left is the short trail! I let some of the air out of my back tire, but the front has lost some air on it's own. No worry, as I only have 3 more miles. I'm taking it easy, and things are going pretty well.
Oh, ye of little faith...
About halfway through the trail, my front tire gets very low. I take out my pump and put more air in it. I continue on. After about another 100 yards, the tire is completely flat. I have a tube, but neither the energy nor the patience to put it in, so I decide to just walk it out, and that's what I do.
As I walk to the finish line, John, Maureen, Ryan, Susan, Duane, Ted, and a few others are there, applauding. I think that they're just glad that they can finally go home, as I was the last finisher.
I was just glad to be done with it all.
I guess DFL is better than DNF. 9:21:02. That gives me a time to beat next year.
Hopefully, next year I won't leave the NUUN tablets in the truck.