Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2010 Syllamo's Revenge recap

This weekend was the 6th annual Syllamo's Revenge mountain bike race near Mountain View Arkansas.  I've been looking forward to this event all year; I'm still fairly new to racing and I hear people talk about this race more than any other.  Plus I really like the trails there and wanted to see what it would be like to race all of them.

After my 9th place finishes in the Spa City 6 hour and Ouachita Challenge and 4th at Bone Bender 6 hour I expected a top 10 finish and was hoping for a top 5.  But I counted at least 7 people on the registered rider list that I'd never beaten (and MANY I'd never seen) so it was going to be tough.

The plan for the weekend was to arrive mid-day Friday, pre-ride the first few miles of the course, camp in Jesse's pop-up, race Saturday and drive home Saturday evening.   I didn't plan for the tornado's.

I arrived at the Blanchard Springs recreation area/campground with Chris and his wife around 3 pm Friday and found a spot to camp.  The campground is the staging area for the race and there were already lots of people there.  As we were pulling in I spotted Dwayne Goscinski, last years winner.  He was resting.

After setting up the camp a little, Chris and I set out for a pre-ride of the first few miles of the course.  We rode up a mile long hill that starts the race and is supposed to string out the riders, then over slippery rock that bunches them back up.  The trail was in good shape but the foliage around it was overgrown and in many places you had to ride through it and couldn't really see the trail very well.  We rode for about 45 minutes and turned around.  The trip back with the long downhill was a blast.

After a pasta dinner in Mountain View the storms came.  Before it started raining a sheriffs car drove around the campground with his sirens on yelling "a tornado is on it's way, take shelter in the bathrooms".  So we huddled in the bathroom with lots of other people for the next hour and a half.  Luckily it only rained.

Around 10pm the rain had stopped and Jesse, Jared and Lori FINALLY arrived with the pop-up.  While we were setting it up in the dark I didn't see a 2 foot drop-off next to the parking pad and fell off it.  I tweeked my left ankle a little but I think the boots I was wearing kept it from being worse.  We finally bedded down around 11 and I slept pretty well considering that I probably lost 5 pounds from sweat.

I woke up at 5am and made coffee and oatmeal with a coleman stove.  It was still dark out but the temperature was great and it felt like it was going to be a really good day.

Lori and Heather agreed to SAG for us by taking whatever we needed to the various aid station/checkpoints during the race.  I decided that instead of mixing 1 hour bottles of Hammer Perpetuem+Endurolytes Powder like I had for Ouachita I'd instead make it thick like pancake batter and fill 2 gel flasks that I could carry the entire race.  Then mix 1 bottle of water and Perpetuem+Endurolytes to get me to the first aid station where I would pick up bottles of plain water.  That way if I couldn't find the bottles Lori and Heather were leaving I could just fill the bottle I was carrying with water from the aid station.

Registration was SUPER fast and easy.  One thing I liked was that they gave us a Hammer Gel Flask and had a table with lots of bottles of Gel to fill it up with. MUCH better than the single serving sample we usually get. They even had Espresso flavor which is my favorite.

There were lots of riders showing up and filling the parking lot.  The time before a race is always fun.  There's an excitement in the air and everyone's pumped or nervous or just happy to get to ride their bike.  I went around and chatted with lots of the people I've met in the last year of racing.  I think the 2 best types of people are Jeepers and MTBRs.  They are different groups but share MANY qualities.  They'll tell you to suck it up if you're complaining but will give you the shirt off their back (or their only spare tire/tube) if you need it. 

I skipped the pre-race meeting since there were lots of people heading to the starting line and I didn't want to get stuck in the back.  My plan was to be in the lead group at the top of the hill and I didn't want to have to pass the entire field to get there.   I don't know how many people made it but there were 370 people that paid.   I didn't see some of the people I expected to be battling for the win, but there were lots of good riders there and I knew I'd have to have my best race to compete with them.

Once the race started I held my position in the upper third of the field for the short road section leading to the gravel road hill climb.  Once on the climb I began passing people, riding as hard as I could and when I turned onto the single track I was in 8th place.  The trail at the top of the hill was fast and flowy for about a mile, then there's a half mile with several hike-a-bike sections, then the trail gets much better.  I was at the back of a group with 3 other riders, all of them on single speeds.  I noticed we were starting to gap the group behind us so I started yelling encouragement to get them to ride faster, which they did.  Then we passed 2 riders wearing Specialized jerseys on the side of the trail fixing flats.  That meant we only had 2 more riders in front of us.  On one of the switch backs the leader of our group endo'd on the turn.  He jumped up but dropped off the back.  On a couple hill climbs I was yelling at my group to keep the pace up.  I wasn't trying to be an a-hole, I just wanted us to work together because when you ride in a group you keep a more consistent pace and it's usually faster than you'd do by yourself.  Then they both started waving me by.  Maybe they didn't think they could maintain the pace or they didn't like me; either way I went by and surprisingly was soon on Dwayne's tail.  We were going down the steep rocky trail that leads to the awesome lookout point (me posing there last winter on the right).  I asked Dwayne if he thought we had time to stop to check out the view and he started laughing and then he and the guy in front of him missed the turn on the trail.  A photographer there pointed it out right before I passed the turn, so I made it and all of a sudden I was in the lead (photo taken from online gallery).
I rode the next couple of miles as hard as I could.  It was strange because I was taking out all kinds of spider webs and I kept telling myself that something wasn't right.  I shouldn't be in the lead; I was going too hard or something.

I maintained the lead for awhile and was then passed by Wiley Mosley; he was one of the riders that was fixing a flat a few miles into the race. I was able to stay within site of Wiley all the way to the first checkpoint/aid station. When we got there I downed 2 cups of heed from the aid table, grabbed the bottle Lori had left for me and took off. As I pulled out and climbed the gravel road leading to the next section of trail I was passed by Scott Henry (the winner at Ouachita) and he asked me how far ahead the leader was. I told him about a minute and after he pulled away that's the last time I saw him.

The trail after the first aid station was really difficult with lots of flat slippery rock and I ended up walking my bike over a lot of it since I didn't want to wreck.  Somewhere on that trail I was passed by a rider with an Arkansas jersey and finished that section in 4th.  After we passed highway 5 and the 2nd aid station I was able to catch back up to the Arkansas rider and passed him as he was walking his bike up a hill.  I was feeling pretty good and was going as fast as I could since I expected to be caught and passed by Dwayne or some other fast dude at any time.

The climbs after the second highway 5 crossing were the hardest of the day for me.  I rode most of it but I was wearing myself out.  I was breathing so hard I was drooling on myself and my legs were dying on me.  I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was make it to the Red trail and I'd be okay.  I eventually made it to the last aid station at the start of the red loop which meant I only had 15 or so miles to go with no major climbs left.  After a fresh bottle and a couple cups of heed I took off.  One of the volunteers told me that 1st place was 4 minutes ahead and 2nd was 1 minute.   I was really only worried about not getting caught since I was in no shape to chase anyone but it was nice to know I was hanging in with the leaders.

On the red loop I recovered quite a bit and about halfway I started to see the 2nd place rider Wiley Mosley.  A couple times I even caught him at the top of a hill climb only to lose him on the descents.  It was amazing how fast he could go downhill.  I was going as fast as I could and feeling like I was a little out of control and he kept pulling away.

After the red loop I was out of water and ran over to the aid station for some heed; I didn't want to let Wiley get more time on me but I needed the water.  The volunteer said it was all downhill to the finish but I'm not sure he's ever ridden the mile or so of trail that was left.  I usually don't have to drop to my granny gear going downhill.  But I made it back to the road we came out on and after a THRILLING downhill ride (where my rear brakes were squealing because the pads were worn out) I finished the race in 3rd place about 30 seconds behind Wiley and 6 minutes behind the winner Scott.

I talked to Wiley after the race about how he descended so fast and he said he simply doesn't touch the brakes.  Well, he's got a lot more skill (and guts) than I've got, that's for sure.

The post race spaghetti was great and I had a really good time talking to the other riders.  I met some new people, caught up with others and eventually packed up and headed back to Springfield around 8pm.  Jared, Jesse and Chris all finished the race.  Here is a link to the results and here are the picture galleries I've found so far:

A lot of people had mechanical issues and that's one reason I placed as high as I did.  But I prepared and rode well so I'm not going to give up the rock (and $50) they gave me.  I earned it.

Thanks to the Syllamo's Revenge promoters and volunteers.  It was a great race with so many friendly and helpful people I can't say enough nice things.  I'll be back next year for sure!

Next up is Greensfelder.

UPDATE: Here's a link to my Garmin data from the race.

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