“The chicken was crossing the road.” My friend and fellow racer Madonna explained why the neutral start slowed down at one point during the Fool’s Gold 50 mile race on Saturday, September 7. I heard this, and nearly snorted water at the person next to me on the post-race drive back to our cabin. We were euphoric with finishing a long day, some longer than others, and this conversation kicked off the silliness for the evening.
The Fool’s Gold 50 mile race started out of the Montaluce Winery and Estates in Dahlonega, GA. Racers rolled out behind a lead car onto pavement in the early morning haze. We dipped into a small hollow and the pack slowed down. A mother hen and 12 chicks needed to cross the road. That friendly ethic typified the positive race atmosphere. Fellow racers were courteous, volunteers helpful, and the course was a mix of gravel road finishing with a nice amount of smooth, speedy, fall in love with mountain biking single-track.
I set out at a pace that my legs agreed to, and settled into gravel road climbing and descending. A group of us went back on forth, single speeders and geared riders, and made for some entertainment. People made way on the descents and the climbs, and there was plenty of room for passing and being passed. After some time and 18 miles in I refilled my pack with Infinit and my legs woke up.
After the second aid station I started coming up on some familiar riders including my friend Jana and then I closed in on my good friend Madonna. People in Charlotte know Madonna as MC. I met Madonna, who I’ll refer to as MC for the rest of this story, when I first began mountain biking. MC was one of my mountain biking heroines. She still is. She’s fast, a great technical downhiller, wicked climber, and race savvy. And best of all, she is a kind and thoughtful person. Except maybe when she is racing.
So I pass MC and the next 10 miles become the best 10 miles of the race. MC and I killed it on the single-track. We passed men, women, chickens, birds, you name it, we were flying. We saw Elsa, stalwart and steady, as she was pedaling her way in the 100 mile race. Elsa looked happy and the day was beautiful.
Late in those ten miles I felt my bike get a bit squirrely on the turns. It’s an odd feeling when your tire wants to jump off the rim. I realized that my rear tire was low. Too low. And MC was hot on my wheel.
I got a few seconds ahead and checked my mileage. We were at about 43 to 44 miles and there was one more aid station at mile 47. I decided to risk rolling my tire off the rim and kept going. The berms and curves got a little interesting and my legs started to feel the pace.
At mile 47 or so the singletrack ended on gravel road, and the aid station was in sight. I shouted for a pump, and the volunteers leapt into action. They finished putting air in my tire just as MC came up and went by me. I jumped on, and tore after her. Whereby we both ended up racing into a dead end. Classic, eh?
The course markings were a bit confusing to us so we worked together to figure out where to go. We turned around and started back to the aid station. MC spotted 2 riders just below the road and we saw the trail entry.
We dropped into the trail and went after those two racers. We passed them, and then MC and I traded positions back and forth. My legs were protesting. I blew by a hairpin turn onto singletrack and MC called out to warn me. I turned and followed her up, and further up another trail.
At mile 50 my legs had had enough. MC passed me, and when she did, she made it count. I fought and suffered the last four miles on the gravel and paved roads to the finish. I may have passed a chicken coop but saw no sign of the chickens. They probably had the good sense to get in the shade by that time of day.
|Warm, sleepy baby chicks.|
Finally, after a turn onto the vineyard property, the black finish archway appeared, and I was done.
Later, sitting in pool near the finish line and feeling more coherent, I looked around and saw happy, tired racers enjoying the post race food, camaraderie, and sharing that blissful feeling of having spent a good day in the woods. It was an awesome day racing with teammates and friends. And next time I'll have that chicken for dinner.
Thanks Coach Chad for your coaching, and Infinit for your reliable nutrition. Thanks also to Eddie O’Dea for organizing the FoolsGold event.