Wet, muddy, unpredictable, sketchy... It was a very challenging ride and one I won't forget anytime soon. 45 Miles of Mud, rain, and hills with 4300+ Elev Gain. 1/2 in GA , 1/2 in AL.
The day began with a forecast of clear skies, and warm temperatures. We got to the parking area, and I realized I had forgotten my shoe covers at home. Oh well, too late... the rain had already saturated the ground to the point my feet were wet before the race even started. With temperatures hovering around 55 F,. being wet also meant being cold. To combat the cold we all started riding warmup laps in front of the property. Kept our spirits up and our core temps as well. This was less about the race for me and more a training ride for fuel and hydration leading into Unbound. A 45 Mile ride is almost the distance between food and water stops at unbound. Can I carry enough? We will find out.
As start time grew near we gathered in the front yard of the site host. We would all leave out of the driveway and turn onto the pavement. With no pace vehicle, and only the honor system to keep us in check, the countdown was on... 3....2....1....GO ... We were off like a herd of squealing pigs. Sliding and slipping in the mud before we ever really got going. The cry of wet rotors and being squeezed by the semi-metallic pads of the disc brakes. Some 300 riders take off on what was to be a great race day. The race director requested a neutral 15MPH start. That was not what happened. Almost immediately a breakaway pack left at 22-24mph. These were the big dog, A Group racers. The rest of us just held on for the ride.
The rain never stopped. Well, I should not say never... it stopped for a few minutes here and there but it rained more than it did not. It took me 1Hr40Mins to make the Halfway point. The Aid Station at Mile 23. But by the time I arrived, they only had water and coke zero to drink, and no snacks. I was lucky in that I prepared to make the ride unsupported if need be. With my Picky Bars, my Clif Bars, my Motts fruit Snacks and my Skratch Super Fuel hydration mix, I was confident I could make the rest without the need for a refill.
As I was getting ready to leave the Aid station one of my riding friends rolled up and asked if I could wait for him. I still don't know if that was a good idea for either of us. My average time dropped 2 Mph, he flatted and we had to take 20 mins to change a tire. If not for him following my line, he may not have flatted, and I would have finished 20 mins sooner, on pace.
After the flat, we decided it was no longer worth it to try to catch our other friends. We would just ride a party pace and enjoy the route. A winding rolling hill ride in West GA and East Alabama. The views were crap because of the clouds, there were dogs that chased us, and the misty rain that never stopped just nagged at your patience. It felt like we would never get to the finish.
By mile 30 I had almost no front or rear brake left. The silt had eaten them all away. I was needing to slow down very early and could not carry the speed into turns or climbs like I needed to. On one particular downhill about 5 miles from the finish, we were on a long pavement downhill. at the bottom, the 2 routes 75 and 45, rejoined for the finish. The meeting point was a turn onto the last gravel section of the course. As luck would have it, I was coming in hot to the right turn, as was a pack of 75 miles from the other direction... I yelled out " NO BRAKES NO BRAKES" to warn them I could not stop if they got in my path. I was 100% on both levers all the way to the bars, and still gaining speed... Thankfully, they heard my cry and checked up short of the turn. I flew in hard and prayed, don't lose it. .... Somehow I managed to keep it on a good line and stay upright. Once my heart rate came down from that, I ate my last bar, a Smooth Caffinator... I knew I needed that last little push to get me to the end.
We left the last gravel patch and AK (my ride partner) was starting to struggle. We had 2 miles to go. I came around and started pulling. Just then I felt the surge from the bar, and it was GO time. We hooked up at about 22 MPH on wet pavement, rolling 42MM tires at 40PSI... this was all we had... the last turn and 1/4 mile from the finish we came side by side, locked arms to shoulders, and rolled across the finish together. We had made it. It was Over. Ecstatic, exhausted, and filthy, we finished. Somewhere in the top 1/3rd of all riders. 3hrs 38 mins. (coincidently this was the same amount of time the 1st- 75 miler finished in. ) 45 miles. It was finally over. Now I had to wait for the guy with the keys, so we could get dry clothes. - He wouldn't finish for another hour. :(
Overall I had fun, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters to me. I had no illusion that I was going to win. I wasn't even trying. This was a training ride and a successful one at that. I had no major mechanicals, no crashes, and no flats; I didn't bonk, and I finished. Checked all the boxes for success. I will do it again.