The Six Hours of Warrior Creek is a quality event put on by the Brushy Mountain Cyclist Club in Wilkesboro, NC. The thing that sets this race apart from similar lap races is the unique trail that the race is held on. The Warrior Creek trail is hard packed, smooth,and just about every turn is burmed. The trail is so flowy that brakes are almost not needed.
Coming into this event I felt strong and well rested. I noticed that the singlespeed field was a little more stacked than usual but I felt confident that I would be fighting for a top three finish at the end of the day. Thanks to my TFKT teamate James, I was able to secure a pit that was in an ideal location.
Knowing how important it is to be one of the first to get into the woods, I lined up in the second row behind Rich Dillon. I know that Rich is good at picking through people at the start so I figured I would hold his wheel from the get-go. I was able to hit the singletrack with a decent group of riders and was able to avoid the log jam that was surely happening behind us. The first lap ended up being the most fun for me as it was super slick and I enjoyed watching the rider in front of me make save after save. I knew that this guy was going to end up on the ground. Sure enough it wasn't long before both tires washed out and he was filling his chamois with mud.
With the trail conditions a bit sketchy, I found it difficult to take the bottle on the first lap. It didn't help that I was using some new Specialized Rib Cages for the first time and I was not used to the feel of the bottle entry. About 20 minutes into the lap I decided to try to gain some time on Rich who was a couple riders back, by tossing my bottle into the trail in hopes that he would stop, pick it up, and return it to me later.. After all, he knew that I was only carrying one bottle and that if I didn't have my nutrition, I wouldn't be around to pull him later in the race. Well.. that plan didn't work. Instead of stopping, Rich heckled and then passed me.
I was about midway through the first lap when I started getting a sharp pain in my gut. I didn't think much of it as I am used to dealing with stomach issues while racing. These pains tend to come and go as they please but usually don't last more than an hour or so. Little did I know, today was going to be different. I kept a decent pace through the finish of the lap, picked up a fresh bottle, and soildered on. The pain in my gut continued to intesify and I also began to feel nauseous. I tried to ride through it but it but I had no choice but to slow it down to a casual pace. The remainder of lap 2 and lap 3 were uneventful. I did not feel like racing my bike. I was not having any fun and had decided that I could not nor did I have the desire to hold off any competition when they caught up with me. I was just out there to survive.
Lap 4 was rough on me. I did not want to be out there and I was mentally cooked. Much of the lap I thought about throwing up in hopes that I would actually throw up and start to feel better. I tried to find any excuse to justify pulling the plug after lap 4. I know what it feels like to quit a race as I have DNF'd both of my 24 hour attempts. I have not forgotten what it feels like and how it eats at you. This is the only reason I headed out for a fifth lap. Who quits a 6 hour race after all?
It was about a mile into lap 5 when I started contemplating turning around. It seemed ridiculous to put in a final lap when I was so far off of the podium and moving at a snails pace. My head was really messing with me. I kept the pedals turning and like the laps before was unable to use the momentum of the course to my advantage. I had to work for every inch of that trail. Somewhere around mile marker 9-10 I caught a glimpse of a familiar jersey on the trail down below me. It looked to me like Ross Dowswell was coming up from the back like he does at so many races. At that point I decided that I was not going to let him pass me. If I could stay out of sight then he would have nothing to chase. I picked up the pace and began passing people who had passed me one after another. About 2 miles out from the finish I suprised another singlespeeder as I yelled out "coming by" on a hill climb. He kindly moved out of the way until he noticed that I had one gear and then the chase was on.. great. I tried to let it be known that I was fresh and could spint up these hills all day long hoping that he would concede. The plan worked and he dropped off not long after. I carried my frantic pace across the finish line and have never been happier to just finsh a race. I waited to see if I had opened up a gap on Ross only to find out that it was not Ross that I was running from.. it was some lady wearing the familiar jersey.
I am a bit disappointed in this race as I know that I should have been competing for the win but given the circumstances, a fifth place finish looks a lot better than a DNF. I will continue to work on my nutrition and once I get it dialed in.. watch out!
Congratulation to James Haskins for his strong showing in his debut for TFKT. Also congrats to Jeff Dennison for putting TFKT on the podium with his impressive performance in the old guys class.