Syllamo's Revenge 2010
Wow.... what can I say? The trail is rated by IMBA as one of the 5 'epic' trails in the US. It definitely lived up to expectations on that scale.
Getting ready for the weekend had been very difficult. The Sunday before the race, the rear triangle on my Sugar began to crack (see previous post). I found it on a pre-race hill climbing adventure with Bill and Adam from the team. Needless to say I freaked out. In the end, I got very lucky and was able to get the bike rideable again.
Moving forward to Friday, Bill and Brad picked me up at the house and we hustled to Syllamo. Brad made a few navigational mistakes and that caused us to take an hour longer to get there than it should have, but I got to see parts of AR that I've not seen in a few years.
When we arrived, Charles and Shawn were already at the cabin, enjoying the stream down below. The cabin belongs to a friend of ours and we rent it for a very agreeable fee. It sits on a hillside overlooking a beautiful rocky creekside bluff. Needless to say, it was a helluva lot nicer than staying in a tent!
After checkin' the place out, we headed out to the trailhead to take on the first 5 miles of the racecourse as a pre-ride. The first climb of the race is extremely tough fire-road riding about a mile long. I rode it but was absolutely dying when I got to the top! We bombed on through the rest of what is effectively the blue trail. Rock garden after rock garden passed and made for extremely slick and technical riding.
At one point, I came up on Billy and Shawn standing in the trail. The were hurling rocks off the trail at something and yelling to stand back. Shawn had ridden up on a 6ft rattlesnake sunning itself on the course!!!!!! Definitely an interesting experience. The rest of the ride was fun but extremely technical and was brutal in the way it pounded us.
When we finished the pre-ride, we headed back to the cabin where I worked on Charles and my bikes and Brad cooked us a killer pasta dinner. That was definitely one of the better pre-race meals I've ever had.
After dinner, heavy weather rolled in and rocked the cabin with rain and heavy winds. Tornado warnings rattled off the staticky radio, but we did not know which county we were actually in, so we were unsure if the tornados were near or far. Regardless of their location, we all ended up sleeping in one room in the hopes that the room was safer than the room above.
We fell asleep listening to the rain and wind, and predicting how scary the course was going to be.
We awoke to sun and warm temps. It was muggy, but I figure that area is always muggy in the mornings during this time of year.
At the park, we started getting everything ready for the race. Numbers on the bikes, food in the pockets and full camelbacks.
Amazingly, after the start gun fired, I made it to the fire road climb in really good position. Unfortunately, I threw most of that away on the climb as people passed me by. I rolled on into the singletrack, but was repeatedly held up on descents as less skill riders made their way down. Basically, I got caught in a pack of people with OK climbing skills and poor descending skills, which is the opposite of myself. I can go downhill quickly, but climb like a homesick rock.
To say the course was technical and tough was/is a gross understatement. Rock gardens came every couple hundred yards and a large number of them were totally unrideable for all but the pros. I walked as much as I rode in many cases. By the time I got to these sections, the rocks were covered with the slime and mud from 200 riders feet and tires and turned them into greasy limestone plates with broken edges just waiting to rip our skin open.....
By mile 12 or so, I was out of water and starting to really drag. So many people had passed me that I really did not know where I was. I heard from one guy who passed me that the sweepers were not far behind me and that really crushed my spirits. Soon enough, I hit the first aid station (which really was wayyyy into the course) and promptly turned onto the green loop. At the top of the green loop, you are given the chance that not many people have had in seeing a wonderful view of the White river and the valley through which it flows.
Unfortunately, when I finished the green, no one was there. The whole aid station had been packed up and there was no food, no water, not even a sign telling you where to go. IMO, that completely sucks. They saw me and 10 others enter the green course and they just pulled out and left!!! I waited there for a while and eventually caught a pick-up truck ride back to the campground. With no water or food, it would have been foolish to continue on and ride.
I'm dissappointed in myself for quitting. It may not have been a bad decision in retrospect, as I know I would have missed the last cutoff by almost an hour. I guess there is just something about DNF'ing a race that gets to me mentally.
Next year, if things work out right, I'll be there again and will do my best to complete the entire course.
DNF'ing aside, I enjoyed the trip. It was good to get out with the team and shoot the bull.