The Ouachita Challenge is just that, a Challenge. Just to finish the event you need to be prepared mentally, physically and be ready for anything. You never know what is going to challenge you come race day. They course could come up to bit you are mother nature could unleash her wrath like it during Saturday's tour event with hail. Luckily for the tour riders they did not have to ride over Blowout Mountain due to it being impassable on Saturday.
Sunday's Course featured (and included the famed Blowout Mountain) 68 miles and 6,932 feet of climbing. Check out jmilliron's Garmin Connect of the Ouachita Challenge. I was kind of hoping that they left Blowout Mtn out for Sunday also due to me riding the hard tail this year, but the Bandersnatch actually did very well especially climbing up the beast. Blowout features plenty of rock gardens which I was happy to be able to climb. During the race I was able to pass a dozen or so riders because I was able to them. I will give it to the 29er's that they did allow me to ride over some stuff more easily than with my 26er. But I did miss the FS on the decent :-)
Sunday morning came and I felt ready for event. A nice pasta breakfast and some fruit and I was all set. Some big boys were in town for this years event. The OC has really taken off as a "must do" endurance event. I just wish they would open up the number of slots available. I somehow found myself up on the front row. Well, at least I would not have to worry about being claustrophobic in the pack.
The race started with a neutral roll out for the first several miles. We had to follow a road recumbent until the first section of gravel then the race was ON. The speed shot up very quickly as Jeff Kerkove took to the front driving the pace early on. I was up towards the front for the first several miles, but the effort was a little out of my comfort range. I knew I would be in the saddle for close to 6 hours so I backed it down and fell back to the second group. There I felt more comfortable, but the pace was still crazy fast. It was more like a criterium race than a mountain bike race. Everyone was jocking for position to stay out of the wind. One asshole about took out some riders most likely because he was playing his ipod so loudly that they he could not ear anything else. When we approached the first single track section I let a few rider get between us so I would not have to listen to the crap that he was playing.
Everything was going great until the aid station #1 at Big Brushy. The plan was for Carolynn to have my two water bottles filled with ProLong, a bar or two and a coke. I would also put on a camel back because I had to make it to aid station #3 without any further aid. The rider/support crew on the left did it the correct way. Nice clean fast hand-up. Mine did not go as swiftly. Poor Carolynn was so cold (the temps were in the 40's, overcast along with a stiff wind) she somehow became distracted and forgot my bottles. She ran to get them at about the same time I arrived at the aid station I looked for her and finally saw her and yelled asking where everything was. The bars, camel back, coke, chapstick were all ready but no ProLong which was my main energy source for the day. Apparently I have an anger control problem and made fuss about my bottles not being ready, which by the way I do not even remember doing, and cussed some which I am sorry for. Maybe next year Carolynn and I will both do the race and we will just rely on the great volunteers that they have. We can even carry our own supply of peanut butter like Gerard did.
I was soon back on my way trying to put the frustration away from having worked so hard to pass riders on the trail only to have them pass me back at the aid station. I soon ran into another problem. I bombed the downhill just prior to the aid station and a large rock hit my rear triangle. I was going to look at it at the aid station, but things got all frantic so I forgot. I stopped just after the road crossing to Blowout Mountain and took a quick look. My brake was dragging a lot and I could not tell if the brake rotor was bent or what. I realigned the rear wheel which did not help, I then loosen the brake caliper and aligned it. This helped a little, but showed the real problem - a bent brake rotor. I tried to fix it the best I could but there was nothing to do but move on. I joined the race (again being passed by a few dozen riders) just when my teammate John Wagner was riding by.
John was riding well, especially the descents. Me on the other hand took the downhills with a bit of caution. I could not see the trail very well with all the leaves. I should have switched to my prescription Rudy's but as I mentioned about, the first aid station did not go to well. We rode together until we started to climb up Blowout Mountain. At that time I really made up some time as I was able to climb the beast all the way to the top. Most others were walking which made the passing easy. Once to the top you get to enjoy some of the most difficult single track (if you want to call it that) I have ever seen. I tried (and succeed) riding several of the more difficult section,s but chose not to try some due to not wanted to tear a side wall or more importantly my flesh.
The next couple of hours featured some really cool single track, gravel roads and the climb up Wolf Mountain. This years course used some of the trial that last years 80 miler used. Very nice and I could see why everyone enjoyed the route so much last year. I hooked up with a High Gear rider on the gravel road sections. We worked together well and brought back riders including his team mate. These guys were fun to ride with. After the finish we all enjoyed some post race food. The volunteers and organization at the OC are first class all the way.
The last two aid stations when very well, but I was behind that 8 ball with my nutrition and hydration. The effects of the course, running out of food/water and the weather started to creep up on me around the 50 mile mark. The last 18 miles I fought hard to avoid total lock out from leg cramps. As I passed others riders who had stopped due to cramps I just kept hoping I could ride through them. The final section of trail along the Womble was awesome. I caught a lot of riders and put time on some of the guys that I was riding with. The Vassago was flowing great, I just wish my legs were not cramping or I would have really be able to press the pace. The final 4 miles after we exited the trail was gravel and road. The wind kicked my butt and I was cramping really bad. 3 guys got by me in the last mile.
All in all, I had a very solid event. My form was good, I just got a little behind in my calorie/water intake and paid the price later in the day. My goal time was 6 hours, so with the problems encountered, I will take my finishing time of 6:18.
Here are the rest of the photos that Carolynn took at the 2010 Ouachita Challenge.