I will apologize in advance for not knowing the customary lingo of mountain biking. I still do not know the proper terms for mountain bike parts on my bike and will frequently misname them. I finally learned the difference between a tire and a wheel though sometimes will still call the tire a wheel. I don’t know what brap means though I imagine that I have done that on a bike? With all that out of the way, my morning after race report for my first Fool’s Gold 50 will be an attempt to explain it all.
I stayed at the Quality Inn in Dahlonega, GA. I had actually stayed there before in March for the Southern Cross. It is fairly close to the Montaluce Winery where the event is held and is economical. This time I had a first floor room, and it was great not to walk the stairs or take the elevator to the room. I stayed up until 10 pm and only slept 4-5 hours, maybe. Not good, but I was very keyed up for the race. I woke up at 2:30 am or so and headed to a 24-hr Wal-mart to buy Prilosec and ibuprofen for heartburn and a headache. The 50-mile race was to begin at 7:45 am, and I had 3-4 hours to burn. I needed sleep, but it was too late for that. I passed through a McDonald’s for an egg white delight McMuffin which seems to be a ritual on race day (and a coffee).
I arrived at the Montaluce Winery at 5:30 am. Someone stopped me to ask if I was a volunteer or participant as volunteers were just arriving. I was way too early but decided I would just drink my coffee and listen to music in the van. The meds were starting to work, and I no longer felt like my stomach’s contents were pressing above on my esophagus. I rarely get heartburn, and when I do it is awful. Coffee does not help heartburn, by the way, but I needed caffeine.
The stars were impressive, by the way.
A friend of mine, Eric, arrived from Signal Mountain and we just talked while watching everyone appear as the sun came up. I heard a rooster crowing all morning to signal the beginning of the day.
The Fool’s Gold 100-mile race began at 7:15 am if I remember correctly, and I watched the racers take off. The morning was perfect, and I was feeling pretty good considering the lack of sleep. I had decided on carrying a small camelback with 2L of Infinit (4 scoops) with water. I also had a bottle on my bike and a bottle at two SAGs. I also had some gel in a small plastic flask. I am still working on nutrition and decided to do this one differently than I did the 1/2 Ironman in May. I normally take on a lot less water than I was planning. My normal method is to have a bottle on the mountain bike that is concentrated 2 scoops/hour. For example, this race would have been a bottle with 10 scoops (normally 2 bottles of 5-6 each) and then plain water in the Ospry. I didn’t want to carry that much weight up Winding Stair, so I decided to carry a smaller Camelback with 4 scoops of Inifint (2L) and one bottle 2 scoops Infinit/water and 2 more bottles SAG at aid stations #2 and #3. I also carried some single serving chamois cream, a small plastic flask of gel, a tube taped to the frame, CO2, levers, iPhone/headphones and my key.
The race began and I spent the first 30 minutes trying to talk myself down from blowing up from adrenaline and the rush of the race. Eric said, “This is a long race.” His words were in my head for quite awhile when I would look down at my Garmin and see my heart rate creep up above 160 bpm. I hit 172 bpm at 13 minutes. That in itself, considering I did no warm-up, is testament to the power of adrenaline. I think the first paved section was about 3-4 miles.
From 25 minutes in until 1:47 hours, I was in climbing mode climbing start to the peak. I love to climb, but there were some painful moments. I kept thinking about needing one gear lower. I thought about drinking more water. My heart rate was under control. I met a nice lady named Heather who had already wrecked on the first downhill before finishing out the climb. My music was distracting me, but I have never been so happy to reach SAG #1 at the top of Winding Stair (Cooper Gap climb). I stopped for 42 seconds with the best volunteers ever when I realized I did not have anything here. I filled up on some water in my empty bottle and took off down the descent after stopping to pee in the woods. I should have taken that as a sign that I was taking on too much water, but never did register in my mind. I started my descent knowing descending is my weakness. I have a fear that becomes quite overwhelming and many times I have to speak out loud things like, “Look up, Beth!” “Come on, Beth!” “You got this!” This time, I imagined myself riding my little childhood bike down Route 2 in Newbern, TN at the age of 8-9 years old. It was a gravel road. Many times, I went down the hill with no hands. It is funny how age has changed me. I have wrinkles and lines on my face, but I also gained a healthy dose of fear. Due to the possibility of cars on blind curves and ruts in the gravel road, I chose to take it easy. I will rephrase and say that I probably was one of the slowest that day on the descent and here is the proof. Notice the green line which is the steep descent. On Strava, this segment is called A Fool’s DH! It is about -8% grade downhill and is quite ominous to me. The fastest ladies did this around 10-11 minutes. I was at 17 minutes. It is what it is. I suppose over time, this may improve, but the thought of crashing is enough for me to wear out my brakes.
I saw Heather take the descent and disappear from my sight. How in the world do people do this, especially after already wrecking? She was amazing. Once I hit the singletrack, I immediately felt this peace come over me. It was as if I had been in a foreign country unable to communicate with anyone and suddenly crossed into the homeland where the language was understandable. I felt so flowy and connected with the trail. I kept thinking, “This is some of the best singletrack I’ve seen! I have to come back and just ride singletrack.” I knew I was making time on the trails where the gravel descents had stolen. I arrived at another gravel road for a couple of miles back to more singletrack. Hooray!
About 2:44 I hit SAG #2. So, here’s where I lost some time. I refilled my Camelback with a bottle in a bag and because I knew I was losing two bottles at the race, I poured the contents of the other bottle into the one on my bike. In other words, I made it harder than it had to be. Then, I had to pee in the woods again. I started thinking, I sure am peeing a lot. I rode the entire Black Bear Rampage the year before without peeing once. I still didn’t slow down my drinking because I felt like I was on the verge of cramps and needed the electrolytes. What I needed was salt. I think in hindsight I was really diluting out my electrolytes because I NEVER CRAMP. EVER.
The rumor is there is a climb after SAG #2 that is about 1K feet in 5 miles. I felt ready for it, but on the verge of leg cramps. I did well on it. It is called the Bull Mountain loop around 10-11 miles or so. Very fun section for me and more “homeland” singletrack.
Some downhill singletrack leading to SAG #3 in the same spot as #2, and I finished off my bottle and yes, you guessed it, peed again. At this point I figured it out. I needed some gel, a fig bar, and slow down on the water. I did end up drinking all that I planned, but next time would probably not use 2 scoops per bottle but 2 1/2 – 3 scoops per bottle. Maybe my daily dehydration is my set point, and I need to work on taking in more water daily before mixing as recommended? I planned on skipping SAG #4 although between #3 and #4 could have peed yet again. Seriously if I didn’t know better, I would have thought I became a diabetic that day with all the urination. Wasted time.
Between SAG #3 to SAG #4, more singletrack and a few guys here and there to try to pass. I did get behind one guy with a prosthetic leg. Talk about freaking tough! I kept looking at my Garmin realizing that no, I won’t do a sub-5 and probably would be closer to 5:40 if I calculated right.
I skipped SAG #4. There was gravel after the SAG that turned into singletrack called Black Branch Trail and back to gravel again. I made the right turn back onto Hightower Church Road back to the finish. I was not liking the paved road climb back to the winery but know that last climb is pretty much it on climbing. I was spinning my legs and just trying to beat 5:50 at this point.
I finished with a respectable 5:45:15 – 5th place Master’s Female. I missed the podium shot (never had seen a five deep podium shot before) because I was in line for food and Terrapin beer after spraying a water hose all over my bike and me and changing clothes. Priorities, right? I felt a bit rough mostly due to lack of sleep and probably too much water.
Random thoughts I personally want to remember:
- Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Whip Nae Nae, and Michael Jackson made the ride great. I really dig music on any ride.
- Creek crossings were welcomed!
- Volunteers were some of the best I have seen!
- One rooty climb where 4-5 guys were pushing their bikes and I just HAD to show them how it’s done all the way to the top. Now they did not know I almost threw up at the top, but hey, I wanted to show what a girl can do!
- There is a lot of my pee in those woods.
- I did not wreck but had a cut on my leg (superficial – mere flesh wound) from something.
- I did not see a single hornet or wasp. SCORE!
- I did not panic as much on the downhill as in Southern Cross. I was slower, but it is more singletrack. For some reason, I thought I beat my Southern Cross time. Nope.
- Chamois cream reapplication while riding is a skill I learned. Go me.
- I will do this race again if possible. I will remember to bring an ambien.
My overall data:
And the Strava ride itself here.