Chris Joice (8)
my favorite gravel race route... everything from long climbs, long descents, fast rollers, rowdy "gravel", smooth pavement, and just enough resupply to entice you to ride light!
this makes the 5th time i've raced the Dirty 130, and the third time ITT as part of the Tennessee Gravel Series. as usual, i wait until it's summer and good and hot... i'll fix that one of these years! also, this go-around, i was coming off of a big vacation that included a 3-day MTB stage race AND racing the GRUSK 260, just a week before. ...not my best planning, but the weekend presented itself, and why not?!
carey told me to "give it hell", and i decided the throw all my chips in and see where they landed! in and effort to knock off some time on my previous PR, i ran one tooth harder, left the water filter and anything extra at home.... going light and lean! the SS FKT that brad cobb set is 2hr faster than my best time, so i had a LOT of ground to make up...
this year i was able to get rolling a little earlier than years past, so i even opted to leave my light in the car... we'll see how this pans out! praying for no "surprises", i set out cruising up Kimsey at a reasonable pace, trying to hold back my horses. it was a beautiful overcast morning, and although i was soaked with sweat, i managed to stay very comfortable and composed.
at Webb Bros gas station, the rafting crowd was getting thick as i showed up for a quick water refill. i waited in line to fill my bottles, but didn't kill too much time... gotta go go! my plan to cut down on stopped time was starting off pretty good, and i ate my packed PBJ as i rolled across the bridge and towards Hambright.
the water fording is where i'd usually take off my shoes to avoid wet shoes for the next 90mi. well, not this time... i wasn't burning any extra time! the water was warm and i squeezed out what i could from my shoes after i crossed. in the end, maybe 5min saved?.. that'll only help!
starr mtn is a great climb and i was having a good go at it, but then the damn loose gravel!... my steady work was turning into a slog with the harder gearing. by the time i got to the top, i was having some real doubts about my "all-in" plan, but alas, not much i could do but keep trucking!
next stop was Coker Creek Vistors Center, and i was starting to do the math and realize there's no way i have enough calories to finish without buying food. well, anyone who's been to Coker Creek knows the sweet volunteer lady at the register is NOT in a hurry! i was grateful and tried to hide my impatience as i ate nearly all my chips as she went to get my ice cream sandwiches (5min minimum!). a coke, chips, cookies, ice cream sandwiches really hit the spot, and i burned a bit of time downing them while i filled bottles and chatted with moto visitors. but man, i gotta go!
with some sugar in my system, i found my legs a little and boogied on towards Buck Bald... and this time i had a gear i could at least pedal on the long flats FTW! as i turned onto the climb up to Buck Bald, i tried to remind myself not to hammer this one... my legs might not appreciate it later in the day. but MAN, it's such a nice climb and i couldn't help but get a bit amped! then a quick stop and photo on Buck, and time to rock and roll the descent... it's so fun on a bigger tired gravel rig!
fingerboard was a bit of a diesel affair.. my spunk had faded a bit and the silly hard gear was taking it's toll. i ate and kept turning them over, and without too much fanfare i cleaned the nasty pitches and was creeping closer to towee pike and reliance.
now, up until this point i had not turned on the "route" on my wahoo, since i'm sure i know my way.... well, then i miss the downhill slight turn, and instead climb a few extra minutes before i realize my mistake! gah, must need sugar and why NOT turn on the route.... some of us are hard learners.
back on route, and the overcast skies are now getting dark and the wind is picking up... kinda like it was forecast! luckily, i've found the pavement of towee pike just as the skies open up. i don my rain jacket for the cruise down the hill and i actually enjoy a nice soaking... good ole summer rain!
up until now i had planned to skip the off-route resupply... it had saved me in the past, but always takes another 15min or so (stopping included). i had enough water to make it to the pipe on mcfarland, but i was really low on food/sugar. by now it was obvious i wasn't going to get anywhere near brad's time, and even breaking 11h was off the table... so to heck with it, i'm getting fuel!
i drink half my coke, eat an apple pie, snickers, and finish my 2nd 5hr... with full bottles, i "charge" (or trudge?) off for the brutal last 30mi! the sun is now out, and the rain as dropped the temps a bit. the stroll along the river is absolutely wonderful, and i finish my coke and spin my legs a bit before the hard work that's left.
the powerhouse climb is always a solid kick in the teeth... it's a little rough, but it keeps twisting and undulating to the point it seems to never end! and that rain has made it super soft.. truly an exercise of managing good headspace and positive attitude. the 5hr and some Dead and Co keep my in line and eventually i'm dropping mcfarland before the last climb.
the last climb takes FOREVER... i've cramped, cursed, walked, and nearly cried before on it! but not this time... i wasn't having that, and i just kept plugging away at it. not at a very impressive speed, but i manage to keep pedaling, eating.. and after 50min or so, i rattle the last traverse and climb the gravel to the top!
it's getting towards dusk, but i know i'm in the clear... time to drop it! and again, i'm happy i have the adventure bike, as it takes all the rowdy in stride and holds a line without any effort. the debris slows me a bit, but i manage to close out the descent in good time.. a few little kickers and i roll in just 20min faster this year!
thanks as always to Kim Murrell for this fantastic route, and i still say, "this needs to be an official race"!! let's go friends!