Southern Cross 2015 in several words: mud, fog and cold. We spent the night in town and headed over the next morning with a misty cold rain hitting our faces on the warm-up. I kept pushing the thoughts of quitting out of my mind because it couldn’t be THAT bad. But, it was that bad and worse. I wore enough layers though and for that I am thankful. I didn’t plan well not installing mudflaps on my mountain bike. I really could have used mudflaps. I remember finishing and seeing a guy that did the race standing around with barely any mud on his face whereas I was covered from head to toe. I thought, and this is the true example of someone thinking and hundreds of others not thinking.
The race started, and I could immediately tell that my sunglasses were going to be a problem with the rain/mud flying in my face, but I needed them because I was wearing contact lenses. I kept pushing that thought back down. Pedal. You have around fifty miles of thinking and pedaling to do. I cannot let the negatives already get me before I start climbing. The race is normally held in February; however due to the ice storm, the race was moved to March.
For 2015, the main gravel road configuration of the course will remain mostly the same. We are eliminating the cyclocross elements at the start of the race, in favor of a neutral rollout on the roads due to the bottleneck that typically forms at the first turn off the pavement. To keep it interesting, we are adding (pending USFS review) approximately 5 miles to the course, including the Jones Creek Dam Trail. This section is very rideable on cross bikes, though possibly challenging due to some steeper grades, and riders should be spaced out before encountering this section to minimize congestion. The return route to the Winery will be on Hightower Church Road (same road you came in on) and not Wahsega Road as in the past. Upon returning to the Montaluce Winery, riders will be greeted with the iconic “wall” run up and some traditional Cyclocross obstacles, however, expect a more direct return to the finish after “the wall” from previous years, so that you can start the post-race celebration a little bit quicker.
Total course distance is just under 55 miles and total elevation gain is approximately 6400.
As I climbed Winding Stair Gap Road, I saw some runners from the Georgia Death Race running beside and passing me. That was humbling. Those guys and gals are freaking TOUGH! Here I am suffering on a climb on a bike while runners are passing me. Nice. To my defense, I also had just converted over to the 1×11 world and was really feeling the burn in my legs. I had to remove my outer jacket because I was getting hot. I had the opportunity while climbing to chat with others climbing and really enjoyed the back and forth. But when the downhill started, I realized things were going to be difficult. Mud was hitting my face so hard that my glasses were covered. I couldn’t see. I decided to use my Osprey to wash my glasses as I could, but that ended up being a bad decision when I ran out of water well before the second SAG. I didn’t stop the first time. I ended up putting the glasses in my back pocket and pulling over to the side of the course to remove contact lenses with my muddy fingers. Who needs vision when you can’t see anyway, and I had so much dirt in my eyeballs there was no way I could continue with my contact lenses in. I also became chilled that I had to stop and put the muddy jacket back on.
And so began the feeling of mud pelting my face and water droplets and fog and despair and running out of water and watching runners survive and wondering when will this race ever ever end?
I had major surgery just four months prior and was proud that I was on my mountain bike undertaking some crazy conditions. I have been proud to wear my shirt around town and see the very few that know what race this is and what it means since. I know that I will do it again next year and suffer again. I just hope that I don’t suffer THAT much.
P.S. The coolest part of this day was that for hours and hours afterward, I could close my eyes and still feel the rain and mud pelting my face. Even when I went to bed that night I could feel the rain and mud all night long.
And last but not least, some pictures of me suffering and smiling.