Apologies for this delayed report, for this effort took place back in early April! Life has been a whirlwind since, but I still think back with fondness on this ride and would love to attempt the other 2 ITT in the near future.
As racing returned to normal after the pandemic, Cycling FKTs (Fastest Known Times) started to lose some of the limelight, but myself and a few colleagues have stayed smitten with the idea and occasionally attempt one to keep things fresh.
For 2023, I set out looking far and wide for a gravel route route that would resonate with me. At the same time (I’ll preface this with the fact I’m a west-coaster), I realized the Southeastern US seems to get less attention in the greater gravel discussion. There’s a lack of national-level events down there, but I knew the dirt is prolific and the terrain is vast. Coincidentally, Shannon had reached out to me last winter about a series of routes in Eastern Tennessee that he promotes. My gears started churning… I called up my colleague and illustrious athlete Heather Jackson and pitched her on the idea of attempting the Dirty 130 record.
We planned for a Thursday April 6 attempt, but as we got closer to the day the forecast worsened. With the BWR California race just a week later, we didn’t want to ride all day in the rain. So a few hundred dollars later, I moved our plans forward 24 hours, packed bags, and sprinted to the airport. There’d be no shakeout ride or recon, but a Chipotle burrito near the airport was enough to suffice as a “race meal.”
I don’t know what led me to believe the D130 is a fast trail (maybe it was optimism that you folks wouldn’t ride chunk all day) but I was flabbergasted on the first climb and descent. It was rough and the descent was slow-going. I’d studied these ride reports here, and also John’s current record of 9 hours 5 minutes. It was fast enough that I just had to keep telling myself it couldn’t stay this technical all day, and indeed the terrain smoothed out and my speed picked up accordingly.
Some of the more interesting moments was the mild panic at mile 34 when the trail seemingly ends and you have to know to ride through brush and ford a river just trusting there’s an old logging road on the other side. It’s well documented in these ride reports but still is one of those “no, this can’t be right…” I was stopped for a few minutes scratching my head for sure!
Another kerfuffle came at Coker Creek: I’d read it has an “always on spigot” but it’s all the way around the side of the building. I scurried around like a panicked critter until I found it. Asking the nice, but confused, employee who’d just started working there about their water source.
My wheels came off magnificently on the final big climb home. It was so rough and I was so broken. I’ll be honest a few f-bombs could be heard throughout the surrounding hills! I bounced my way home, pedal stroke by pedal stroke. My dream goal of a sub-eight-hour attempt slid by and just finishing became my priority. I stopped the clock at 8:20.
My buddies, a mechanic and videographer, were waiting for me under the shade-covered porch at the finish with some locals. They’d lingered to see “the bike rider” come finish the course out of mild interest. Wayne passed me a cold ice cream, some salty chips, and a cold beer. As the salt, fat, sugar, and alcohol resuscitated my soul, we shared some laughs about actually riding a bike over that road they wouldn’t dare drive their truck on. Kim and team, this is one helluva ride!
I left Tennessee with dead legs but a full heart. The community you all have out here around these ITT’s is something special and stands out, it’s so supportive! Thank you for letting me sample it for a few days. Y’all are doing it right out here!
*A note on support crews: This effort was entirely self supported. Even though we had a film crew and mechanic, the only time I interacted with them was before and after the ride. Due to the nature of the course they only acted as a “fly on the wall” at Buck Bald Summit. All the other shots were actually taken the day after on an easy recovery spin to get some decent course footage for that “movie magic”.*
Lastly I’ll leave you with a link to the video Heather and I made on the ride below, as well as some specific technical stats.
Ride Time: 8:12
Total time including stops: 8:20
Strava GPS link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8839274312
Stops: Coker Creek general store mile 63, and the piped spring in hillside mile 108
Tires: IRC Doublecross 42c
Nutrition: Carried all with me from start.
2L hydration pack filled twice (start and Coker)
2x 750ml tall bottles. 3 bottles worth refill (2 at start, 2 at Coker, and 1 at piped Spring)
total 9 L drank
2 NeverSecond c90 high carb water sachets
2 Clif Z bars
1 Clif Nut Butter bar
1 electrolyte sachet
2 Precision gummies
1 Clif Bloks Salted Watermelon
1 Big Precision 90g gel
1 Precision gel caffeine
half of a never second gel (before almost throwing up at the end)
…Couple beers after at Fireside Outpost!