Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Syllamo's Revenge race recap

I do quite a bit of racing and I usually put everything I have into each race, but for me there are 3 big races a year.  Races that I really look forward to and want to do well at.  They are the Ouachita Challenge, Syllamo's Revenge and the BT Epic.  They are all 50+ mile endurance races on some very tricky and challenging trails.  Of these races I've had my best result at Syllamo and this year I feel like I'm doing my best riding, so I entered this weekend's race with high excitement and expectations.

This year the Syllamo's Revenge was held alongside a new NUE Series event the Syllamo 125k.  They would be starting an hour ahead of us and racing the same course, but repeating a couple sections at the end in order to get the longer distance.  I had considered signing up for the longer race, but honestly, the 50 miles of SR are enough, and last year I didn't want to go any further.  I was a little uneasy how the earlier race would effect the trails for us, but everyone would be racing in the same elements so it really didn't make any difference.

The race is near Mountain View Arkansas and I planned on getting a cabin nearby but with 500+ people converging on the area the closest I could get (where dog's are allowed) was a room at a nice place in Calico Rock, the Cedar Rock Lodge.  It was about a 40 minute drive to the Blanchard Caverns Campground, the start/finish area of the race and very clean and affordable.

We made the drive to Calico Rock early Friday, and after checking in and unloading some stuff made the trip to Blanchard Springs Campground so I could pre-ride the first 5 miles of the course.  The ride was great, with mostly dry trails and I felt really good. 

Next we drove into Mountain View to pick up the race registration packet and then headed back to Calico Rock for some excellent pasta at Don Quixote's.  I had the seafood pasta and there was enough for two meals.

Saturday morning I was up at 4:30, ate a big bowl of oatmeal and drove to the race, getting there in time to watch the 125k race start at 7.  Then I rode up the long hill towards Blanchard Cavern to warm up my legs.  On the trip back down I noticed a strange wobble feeling in the lever for my rear brake.  It had a feeling like my rotor was bent and the lever was pulsating.  It had never done that before but I didn't think much of it.

I started the race on the front line and made it to the climb up blanchard road to the singletrack in pretty good shape.  I didn't go all out on the climb since my goal was just to enter the singletrack in the top 10.  In the following picture I'm the 3rd from the right:

A group of 5 broke away a little but were only 30 or so yards ahead.  Cale McAninch passed me and I reached the trail behind him around 6th place.  The pace on the trail was pretty good and on one of the rocky climbs that came after a sharp turn Cale, on a rigid singlespeed had to walk a bit so I passed and he got in behind me.  I got in a group behind 3 riders with Chris Renshaw and Noah Singer in the pack.  We got away from Cale for awhile as we cruised the fast flowing benchcut trail, but when we started some of the slick rocky descents Cale caught back up.  Overall I felt like we were riding faster than I had the previous year and I was definitely working but I was thinking I could maintain the pace for awhile.

About 10 miles into the race on a downhill I went to grab some brake and my rear brake lever went to the bar without slowing me down.  I tried pumping the lever but that didn't work, so I pulled over to see what was wrong.  Cale said that 90% of braking is the front wheel, which is true, but on slick muddy rocks, you need some rear brakes.  I fiddled with the various adjustments on my XX brakes but couldn't get them to work.  There simply wasn't any feeling at the lever, I could pull it to the bar without any resistance.

For the next 4 miles to the first checkpoint I did the best I could but had one crash were I went over the bars and hit my leg pretty hard on some rocks, and was passed by a couple people.  Here's a picture of me about a mile from the checkpoint:

When I got to the checkpoint I was really disappointed.  I'm not a great technical rider and I was really struggling on the downhills without a rear brake.  Plus the big downhills were still to come.  So I decided to call it a day and DNF the race.  I just didn't think I could do it without getting hurt.  Then, Jim Davis (the same Jim Davis that aired up my tire at Berryman a couple years ago) who was at the race supporting his wife Wendy (and everyone else), offered to let me (no told me to) ride his bike for the rest of the race.  I was hesitant but willing to give it a shot.  Then as he was setting the seat height for me he stripped the bolt on his seatpost collar.  I took it as a sign. 

I ended up hanging out at the aid station for awhile and it was pretty neat.  I've never been at one during a race for more than a few seconds.  The racers get a ton of support from friends, family, volunteers and total strangers.  You see a lot of emotion from total joy to fatigue induced suffering.  People battle mental and physical demons during these races, and they don't always win, but most of the time they do.

I ended up giving a ride back to Blanchard to RIM promoter Doug Long.  It was good getting to talk to him.  He has done all of the SR races and this was the first time he had to withdraw.  I could tell it wasn't an easy decision, but one he had to make.  He'll be back.

I'll be back as well.  I need to work on my downhill skills to have a chance to win these races, but I think I can get better.  Maybe riding the rough motorcycle trails at Chadwick would help.

The weekend wasn't a total loss, I got to eat some good food, see some great sights and talk to lots of great people.  The race didn't go as I'd hoped, but everything else did.

The pictures in this post were taken from THIS gallery.  There are hundreds of pictures from the race there.

Now I just need to get my bike fixed because I've got the Ozark Greenways Adventure race Saturday and 6 Hour Indian Camp Creek race Sunday.


  1. You did look to be in great shape at CP1. Wish I hadn't snapped that seat collar, although, looking at the knot on your shin, it was probably a good thing as my Hei Hei likes to buck me every so often for good measure.

    See ya at ICCP.

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