Another long one ? Firewater 50 race rept-
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    Jan 2004

    Another long one - Firewater 50 race rept

    This year was the 10th annual Firewater 50 - an annual, underground, informal "race" that came about to celebrate someone's birthday - and my 2nd appearance at the event. What better way to bring in someone else's next year than to ride 50 miles of N. Ga trails and then immediately upon finishing slam back a shot of some sort of godawful cinnamon liqueur (aka Firewater)?

    I teamed up with my friend MotoMark for the drive up. Moto hadn't been on a bike in 2 weeks and figured that a 50 mile deathmarch was a good way to get back into things. I, on the other hand, just wanted to go up and do a better, or at least less painful, ride than last year.

    In typical *rt* fashion we got a late start (not my fault!! I swear! was all Moto's fault. Really!!) and then got lost - what? I needed to print out and bring the directions? Oh. Huh.

    According to the email I'd received the start time for the race was 9am. At 8:58am we were driving in circles in the middle of BFE Ga with no clue how to get where we were supposed to be. Finally, we spotted the little sign (that we'd driven past at least twice) across from the very large national forest sign (that could only be missed by a blind person...and me & Moto) indicating the turn we had missed. As we bounced up the rutted forest road Moto & I looked at each other and said "This is supposed to be FUN!!.....Let's have some fun dammit!!" and an attitude adjustment ensued. We were ready to take on 50 miles of trail even if we started doing it 20 minutes after everyone else.

    As we pulled up toward the the trailhead we saw.......people riding mtbs!?! Lots of people riding mtbs. Wha?.... Apparently, I didn't get the memo: the ride had been rescheduled to start at 9:30!! We were actually on time!! <do a little dance> Go figure. We hurriedly got dressed and ready. With not a second to spare we rolled into the small mass of people gathered up and ready to start.

    I looked around. The group was smaller than last year (48 this year vs 60 last) and I could only see one other female amongst the testosterone. Hmmm. The group sang happy birthday to Barry and we were off.

    For those of you familiar with the area the route takes you up the steep waterbars & dirtbike/ATV trail of Windy Gap, a quick right to cut over on Milma Trail, then up upper Tibbs, across and down the Mountain Town FS road and onto the fun, technical Mountain Town singletrack, a right turn then a short bit of paved road before another right to take you up the FS rode to Bear Creek where the only rest stop awaited. Then, re-nourished, up Bear Creek, past the huge old poplar, up, up, and up some more, past the look out, past the gate and onto Potato Patch which continues to go up until you are fairly certain that you will soon be residing with the angles. Finally, at the top of Potato Patch a left turn along a long, long, long stretch of FS road until you finally come to the final turn onto the top of Windy Gap and some of the gnarliest single track in N.Ga just to finish you off.

    My goal was to go out relatively easy and keep things steady for the duration. Easier said than done. As soon as the trail shifted upwards my HR shot through the roof. Drat. I eased off but it's tough to find any sort of rhythm on the climb. I watched the lead pack receed into the distance and reminded myself that even in my dreams I can't stick with some of those guys. I was looking at a minimum of 5.5 hrs on the bike while most of those guys would finish at least an hour quicker.

    I was riding alone as I reached the top of the first section and ran into a group of people on dirt bikes trying to push one of the bikes up a steep incline - isn't that what the motor is for?! I asked if a bunch of cyclists had just passed by and they looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. I asked again (wanted to be sure that I wasn't already lost) and finally got an affirmative answer as they waved me on. Unfortunately the 2 guys trying to push the bike up hill were right in the middle of my line down so I had to get off and walk.

    Finally the trail turned down for a bit and I breezed along oblivious to the world around me. The next thing I know some guy on a dirt bike is chasing me down to tell me that I missed my turn. Huh?! Why this surprised me I don't know, since I can get lost going from my kitchen to my bedroom. He pointed me in the correct direction as 2 guys and the only other estrogen bearer passed by. Back on the right track I caught up to the other girl, Laurie, and we rode together for a bit. But as soon as the trail flattened out she was off like a shot. I fought the urge to chase as I watched her go and then settled back into my moderate pace.

    At about this point I noticed someone behind me sitting on my wheel. I kept waiting for him to pass but he never did. Then I started wondering if he was sitting on my wheel to make sure I didn't get lost again (yeah, I needed a gel!) and nearly told him that I would be fine if he wanted to go on. Instead I ate a gel and hoped that my brain would start functioning a bit better.

    At the top of Milma you turn left onto upper Tibbs. Tibbs goes up. And up. And then up some more. Oh, and did I mention it goes up? Yeah, and when you get tired of going up on Tibbs it gets technical and steep and goes up some more. I caught and passed Laurie as we ground up Tibbs. Then, as we reached the technical section she passed me back - I was jealous of her FS and apparently better tire selection. Once again, as soon as the trail (mercifully) flattened out she was off like a shot.

    Just after the top of Tibbs my shadow came around me and I found the company I would keep for the rest of the day. It is about 15 rolling (steeply rolling at times) miles from the top of Tibbs to the right turn onto the singletrack of Mountain Town so it was very nice to have company. Many thanks, Tim, for being such good company. It is always a pleasure to find someone who is keeping the same pace on a long ride. We hummed along chatting and looking out for anything interesting. Apart from the two guys in full camo carrying crossbows we didn't see much that rated high on the interesting scale.

    When we weren?t chatting random snippets of annoying commercials got stuck in my head ? e.g., the new Bridgestone tires commercial .....And the wheels go round and round...And the wheels go round and round...and the wheels go .....ARRGH! We passed by the Mountain Town lookout and got a brief, but breathtaking view of the N.Ga mountains on a crystal clear day.

    A few miles later we made the turn onto the Mountain Town singletrack. Although the rest of the route was in ideal condition Mountain Town is always wet. And rocky. And rooty. With lots of creek crossings. I slopped along enjoying the technical-ness. This ride fell post- hurricaine Charlie and the creeks were filled. I tried riding a few of the crossings until I found myself submerged past my hubs and then I gave up and hiked the rest. At one point my bike decided that it had had enough of being dirty and it jumped out of my hand in one of the creeks and splashed down on its side pushing me off balance and my left hand went down. Mmmmmmmm.....water in the bb and a soggy glove. Yummy.

    With soggy shoes and a wet glove we emerged from the singletrack and onto the road. Tim said "left or right?" I said, "left." We looked at the map and went right. Then right again and up the Bear Creek FS road.....not half as bad as I recall from last year. We pulled into the rest stop, 27 miles in, at about 3 hrs 15 min and I downed my mid-ride 'meal': a bottle of endurox, a tsp of peanut butter, a banana, and 1/2 a clif bar. Oof! Instant heart burn. We refilled our camelbaks and were off and up the Bear Creek singletrack.

    At about this point my body was getting tired of being bounced around and another commercial snippet jumped into my head: 'Oh, I wish I had a full suspension bicycle. That is what I'd really like to have. 'Cause if I had a full suspension bicycle.....' uh, rats, I can't come up with the last line. My brain worked on that knotty problem for a little while. We rode past the Bear Creek lookout. Oooh, pretty. And kept going. Through the gate and a quick rest (aka pee) stop. We picked up 2 more riders who stuck with us until the gate to Potato Patch......the long and grinding road.

    We slogged up Potato Patch. Tim a little ahead, me a little behind. I heard someone behind me moving much too fast to be either of our previous companions. Just as I was about to look back MTBDOC comes cruising past. Apparently he decided that 50 miles wasn't going to be enough for him so he took a long-cut and bushwacked an extra 7 miles.

    After the top of Potato Patch it is a long, long way to tipparary.....oh, wait, that's not it. But it is a long way to the turn off for the upper part of Windy Gap trail. I'd eaten well and was hydrated but I was fading. This section was much longer than I remembered it being from the previous year and I dropped back from Tim. It seemed to take forever (and two stops to check my, now very soggy, map) to finally come to the turn for Windy Gap.

    Every time I descend Windy Gap (and this is the second time I've done so, the first being at last year's Firewater 50, and i'm sure i'll think it again next year) I think, 'Gee, I wish I could ride this first, when I've got fresh legs. It would be so much more fun'... The top of Windy Gap gives you everything your technical heart desires. Loose rocky rooty climbs, loose rocky steep descents, narrow rocky singletrack with exposed edges and high pucker factor, tight steep descending switchbacks (I made 3 out of the 4 and dabbed on the 4th), and then a boulder garden section that as far as I'm concerned is an excellent spot to take a nice leisurely walk while chatting up my bike. Once you make it through the technical you are back on the dirtbike/atv steep waterbar descent. Lots and lots of places to get lots and lots of ai......if you're into that sort of thing......which I'm not. And a few more loose, rocky stupid-steep descents where I found myself so far back off my saddle that it was resting in my stomach and I was saying aloud 'pleasedon'tletmediepleasedon'tletmediepleasedon't letmedie...' I made it to the very end of that section before my eye were drawn to a single rock. The rock spoke to me. It said "*rt* if you don't get off your bike I will grab your front wheel and slam you to the ground before you even know what hit you." Needless to say, I heeded the rock.

    Finally when I thought my arms could take no more breaking and my legs would soon cramp permanently from 'dancing on my pedals' I rolled up and out into the trailhead parking lot to the cheers of "Hey it's the first girl to finish!!!" "No!", I said, there must be someone in front of me!? "No! You're first! You're the only girl to have done the full 50!!" Evidently Laurie had bailed early. <insert big grin here> I successfully managed to avoid the shot of firewater and was so pleased with my ride that I was absolutely convinced that I had cut at least 30 minutes off my time from last year.

    I maintained this conviction for 2 whole days before actually discovering that my total ride time this year was a scant 5 minutes faster than last year and my actual rolling time (total time minus time stopped) was actually 12 minutes slower! Doh! but I take consolation in the fact that (1) I felt that I rode stronger & smarter; (2) I had a blast; and (3) the guy who won both last year and this year was actually 20 minutes slower this year than last.....since I was only 12 minutes slower this year that means I really had a better ride than the guy who won. Right? (that's called 'race math' hehehehe)

    Many thanks again to Tim for being a such a pleasant ride companion for the bulk of the ride. Congrats to Moto for surviving and not getting eaten by a bear during his long trek through the woods. Hi to all the folks I saw including MTBDOC, Duckman, Charlie (from Cartecay Bikes), and the list goes on....and thanks to all my favorite sponsors:
    Team 180?s
    SourceBURN Energy Drinks
    Outback Bike Shop
    Hayes Brakes

    Last edited by *rt*; 09-22-2004 at 09:59 AM.
    "where are you not going so fast?" (question asked to cyclist on a trainer)

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