Monday, June 23, 2014

Hilly Billy Roubaix

What could be better than spending countless hours exploring, training and racing on two wheels? The obvious answer is.. spending countless hours exploring, training and racing on two Industry Nine Ultralite Carbon wheels which are attached to a beautiful Kish Fabrication titanium frame hand-crafted for you and only you.

This past Monday I became the proud owner of such a frame. With the realization that racing singletrack is nowhere in my immediate future, I decided to have Jim build me a frame which would eat, sleep and dream gravel. By combining my gravel racing experience with Jim's extensive frame building knowledge, a one of a kind gravel racing frame was born.


As it turns out, there would be no learning curve for this new bike. A few days after completing the build I found myself atop the Ti steed ready to tackle one of the toughest gravel courses I have encountered on what would turn out to be a very wet day. The Hilly Billy is a 72 mile race which highlights some of the nastiest mud, gravel, and potholes that the Morgantown, WV countryside has to offer. With rain showers the week of, the night before and the morning of the race, the course would be about as ripe as it gets.

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs
Photo Cred: Mike Briggs
As always, the race start was fast but felt very reasonable. As soon as the first few climbs were encountered, a group of maybe ten or so formed and pulled away from the rest of the field. The group was split once again as we navigated a road, path, trail, river  that resembled a bog or a swamp or something of that nature. The mud holes were relentless and quite tricky to navigate due to the unknown depth of the holes and the slickness of the mud. I witnessed much carnage during this section as it seemed the mud holes where trying to devour anything that passed by. With my focus on staying upright, I lost contact with the lead group but once open road was found and with the help of Garth Prosser we were able to bridge back up to everyone but the lead two.

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs 
It was about 50 minutes into the race when I started feeling the discomfort in my lower back. It was an hour and 10 minutes in where it became bad enough where my race turned into a ride. Being that I was laid up completely two weeks ago, along with the demands of this particular course, I knew that there was a strong possibility I would encounter some problems. I also knew that this would lead to me thoughts of a DNF and general negativity. I had put a lot of thought into this scenario prior to the race so I was mentally prepared. Prior to making the trip to WV I had decided that I would race as hard as I could until my body told me otherwise. Then my focus would turn from racing to having fun while riding with friends.

It's difficult to flip the switch from being competitive to just riding along. Dealing with the mental aspect of making that decision coupled with the negetivity which accompanies the pain has been the most demanding part of racing for me. This time I was fortunate enough to fall into the company of a group of three including Dan Rapp, Crystal Anthony and Geffrey Moy. The four of us stuck together for the next three hours more or less spending a large chunk of that time riding at a pace resembling a casual group ride rather than a race. It felt strange to be off the throttle and just cruising but it was all I could do and all I wanted to do. Much to my amazement, we were never caught and ended up catching a handful of riders as we neared the end.

With a few miles to go, I was with Geffrey and one of the riders we caught when the attacks started. I tried to play along for a bit but just couldn't overcome the pain long enough to hang in there. I watched as the two rode off to battle it out on their own and once again found that "just have fun" pace to finish it up. All in all, 7th in the open and 11th in the overall is not too bad. It never gets any easier when time and time again I have the fitness to be challenging for the top step but pain holding me back which I can't overcome. This often leads me to question why I continue to train and race when its a crap shoot whether or not I'll be able to perform to my ability.

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs

Photo Cred: Mike Briggs

I guess the short answer is.. it makes me happy. I love the training process and I enjoy getting to push my limits and more so my competitors limits while racing. For now I am trying to accept that I may not finish as well as I'd like or where I know I can each and every race and I may even DNF here and there which is ok. I'll continue to train and I'll continue to race. Some days I'll be in the front of the pack and others I'll be a little further back hopefully with a group of friends just enjoying the ride. After all, what could be better than spending countless hours exploring, training and racing on two wheels?

If you're wondering how the Kish rode, I'm having trouble coming up with words. The only word that comes to mind right now is perfect. Thank you Jim for putting me on such a phenomenal bike! I am looking forward to spending countless hours on this bike and am proud to represent Kish Fabrications.

Thanks once again goes to JR, all of the volunteers and everyone else involved in making the Hilly Billy what it is.




1 comment:

  1. I'll be up there in two weeks. Looking forward to exploring around a bit myself. Glad to see you are finding the fun with each and every ride regardless if its race pace or not. "Enjoy the ride."