Tuesday, May 31, 2005

12 Hour Solo Race - Vulture's Knob Witches Brew Endurance Race Series

The thunder rumbled in the near distance, the taste and feel of the air was beginning to transform, my lungs sensed the change. The race was going to undergo a drastic change, pedal hard, ride smart and go fast. I was feeling scary strong; this could not last all 12 hours, could it? The rhythm and flow was right on, a picture perfect start. The trail, oh the sweet trail was beyond mint, near perfect!

2 ½ hours prior, the race started with the sound of the famous VKnob “quack” duck call. We racers ran a short loop to spread out the pack, before grabbing our bikes for the 12 hour Vulture's Knob mountain bike race series titled "Witches Brew". I remembered last years run in which I went out slow, trying to pace myself and fell behind a few less experienced riders on the first lap. One of whom took a nasty dive in the rock tunnel taking me and several other riders down. That was not happening this year, as I was third in the run to the bikes and we were off. Once on the bike, I could not wipe the grin off my face. The trail was perfect, and fast. Mike Walewski got out in front and set the solo pace, wicked fast. I knew I was outside my zones, but what the heck, this was a training race, a time to experiment. Let’s see what breaks me.

rock tunnel

It was a full course green light, lower Killbuck, all hills, everything, just as it should be. I actually could not believe they added the lower Killbuck section, the 1/4 mile of log bridges we’re out, (apparently beaver had dam’d up that part of the course?) but the old trail next to the river was brought back to life. Why my disbelief, because there was a 50% forecast of rain, and that whole section gets heavy with water. But, wow was it flowing good…nice, dry and fast. If the rain holds off, race director Mark is the hero. If it rains…this will be the section designed by some sicko who watches and enjoys needless suffering.

elevated bridges in the swamp of lower Killbuck

The first laps went well (9ish mile laps) and were fast indeed for a 12 hour pace… 1) 51.ish 2) 51.05. (to my crew tent) Then on the end of the 3rd lap the skies opened up. I was near the over/under rock bridge and had to drop my glasses because the day became the night. The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees and the wind whooped up. The deep thunder roared all around the course, then we heard the rain hit the canopy of trees overhead. The trees held off the inevitable drenching for a few minutes, then the wetness broke through. I made it back in 55.30 + pit stop. The course was getting slick. I was chilled, grabbed a jacket, some more rocket fuel and I was off. Still feeling good, I was convincing myself to look forward to rain as an experiment in what to wear, and how to ride for this years under 9 hour attempt at the Leadville 100. This race was setting up to be the perfect experiment in equipment, clothing, nutrition and mental attitude. The 4th lap held a slight adaptation curve. The course was getting glossy. Not thinking much, I approached the infamous “cradle”, (off camber, rooted approach that shoots you like a cannon directly down a gully and into a u-shaped bridge that hugs the lower gully and looks like a cradle) I cleared all the roots in the typical approach, made the turn then slammed into the hillside as my front tire washed out on the wet, slick hard pack. It was slow motion, like a turtle flipped upside down spinning uncontrolled, I slid down the hillside. Nothing to grab onto, the water, my bike and my body slithered in the mud until a tree broke our fall and prevented us from dropping further into the gully. I jumped up, my gloves, covered in mud untwisted my handlebars from the frame, I surveyed the damage and I was on. Up the climb to the next downhill, when I went to grab my rear brake, the level pulled all the way to bar…nothing, well maybe a little something, but I could not tell. The next 8 miles were fun, to say the least. Lower Killbuck immediately turned into the famous mix of heavy, slick, nasty, slow going, peanut butter muck that is typical of river banks.

From here on, it was tough to figure out what was going down, everyone was so spread out. I got back to tent, spent a lot of time clearing the muck off the bike so I could get at my brakes. Finally, made every adjustment possible to no avail. I thought about switching bikes, but opted to destroy only one. I jumped back on the bike, and somehow all systems were go, the brakes worked themselves out. The lap times moved down to 1:10 – 1:15ish + pit stops. My confidence was gone in the cradle, though. As each lap I talk myself into riding it. Then bailing out each and every time as visions of my bloodied/muddied knee would enter my weak and simple mind. I opt’d to run down the hill instead, eating up time and my ego, but it was the safe thing to do…right? (“freak’n wimp” I screamed at myself) The sun would come and go, the clouds would pass, leaving a few drops here and there until the daylight was laid to rest.

one of many hollowed out 1/2 log bridges

There is something about riding at night that I truly enjoy. Everything changes as the night divides the day. I kept my lights off as long as possible and finally flipped the switch on the road to the upper section. When I started the climb out of valley I heard the strangest sound. My mind was a bit sappy but it sounded off again. It was the oddest sound, but it was strangely comforting. It seemed as if it was trying to tell us something. Was he welcoming us into his house or warning us of pending danger. A few minutes later, the same noise, only louder. It seemed to be an owl with a good set of Vulture's Knob lungs, or race director, Mark, was hiding in the woods with one of his duck calls gone lame. I rode most of the night laps alone, looking around you can see other racer’s lights, but we never crossed paths. It was very unusual, yet very serene. I looked forward to hearing the hoots and howlers of the nocturnal creature as I entered its house during each night lap. I felt at home.

rainbow bridge

I ended my 9th lap and sat at the tent with my crew pondering another lap at the 11th hour. I had a quarter tank left, but did not want to endure the Killbuck muck. I was sitting in second place, a lap ahead of the third place rider. That’s when the first place solo rider, Mike, passed me and I decided to check in at the scorer’s tent to see what was happening. While we were there, the third place solo rider checked in also. We all looked at each other and decided to hang it up, the race was well laid out and it was to nobody’s advantage to go out and risk another lap.

Well, to the true VKnob spirit, I must say the giant witch’s brew kettle was stirred a little strong, but it was tasty none the less. A job well done.

Thanks yet again to my fantastic crew – my Dad, who persevered the nasty weather and kept me going each and every lap. And to my wife Connie, who kept our two month old occupied during the day and came to the race to offer up much needed night time support and encouragement. Just her showing up in the late hours gave me another ounce of energy to keep going. My mother - who watched Landon during the night time laps from the comfort of her home. A job well done to the Miranda’s and volunteers who kept the scorer’s table enjoyable each and every lap.

12 hours (turned 11 hours) of VKnob Witch’s Brew Endurance Series 2005 Race #1

1) Mike Walewski – 10 Laps
2) Kevin Daum – 9 laps
3) Darin Evans - 8 Laps
4-10) unknown

vulturesknob - course website

www.kaslanphoto.com - more photos

Thanks for reading - Kevin Daum

Monday, May 09, 2005

Valley Circuit Spring Training Series Race #5.

Weather was cool, yet refreshing. A good turnout of cat 3, 4, & 5 totaling 40+ racers in the "B" class. Snakebite, Orrville, Summit Freewheelers, Stark Velo and more. Ross, Steve, Jason and I entered for a little spring race training. Since this was the last race of the series an extra lap was added making for a 6 lap, 30 mile fast paced ride. (23mph avg) I think this was the first race in this series for all of us? Mad man Ross found out he needs a major road bike tune up as he pulled off the front on the first lap to fix a loose skewer, twice. Steve and I witnessed several solo attacks that were short lived due to the windy front mother nature presented. You'd think we'd watch, observe and learn, but for some strange reason Steve and I still wanted to have a little fun and try a break. Steve lead out on lap 4 and I jumped on. Nobody followed us into the wind as we had a short gap on the group. The plan was not having a plan, neither of us have much road racing knowledge. Looking back, I don't know why we did not work this together, instead, he lead me out and I tried to take off. I got off the front a bit, about half a lap later I broke as I battled the wind by myself. I slowly sat up, grabbed my water bottle and waited for the main field. I sat in and recovered a bit while Steve jumped up front and did alot of the work alternating with a few guys. The sprint to the finish was typical, Brett Davis from Snakebite took off early to stretch the pack out which greatly increased our safety. A bunch of his teammates jumped to the front and lead the charge, very well done I must admit. Then as the burn tore into our legs the sprinters danced the width of the road in a chaotic mass finish.... I tried to figure where we finished...we're guessing 9th for Steve and 6th for myself? Matt Turi took the gold on this day.

- KDaum