Dustin White, 3rd place (on right)...but never again!
|Hello Ladies and Gents! After not racing XC for the month of May, I had a fun return this past weekend at the Oak Mountain trail system outside of Birmingham, AL. This weekend's course is one of the toughest on my calendar as it has a mix of about everything...rocks, roots, climbs, descents, and historical fear....In 2013 I crashed at this trail system prior to racing and had to get some stitches! In addition to the terrain challenges, the race is a good bit longer than some of the others in the series at 29-30 miles. The first lap is 20 miles in length and includes about 30-40 minutes of tight, rooty trail before approaching approximately a 3 mile gravel climb called "red road." After riding up the mountain and along a ridge, you start to descend through some switch backs to a section known as "blood rock." The name is definitely hyped up, but it's a step down descending rock garden that is always wet...because a creek runs through it. After that rock garden you finish descending through some fast rocky corners and enter into a few more climbing switchbacks and finally end through more tight rooty sections. Lap 2 is about 10 miles and includes a lot of single track climbing and the same final rooty sections as lap 1.
Race day came and I was excited! I was sporting my new "Unicorn Magic" socks and certainly felt like I was channeling my power animal! I had a decent start but made it to the woods about in 5th place. I wanted to be a little further ahead, but I was happy with playing the patience card. After a short double track section, we entered more tight terrain and in that moment, the always alluring Regan Woodall opened a gap and The Harrison followed him! I had 2 folks between me and these 2 so I was at their mercy to catch back up. After about 5 minutes we were reconnected and then the weather changed....
I would say we got to race 20 minutes in good conditions and then the rain came on and never let up! As we approached Red Road I actually had to remove my glasses because they were fogged up so bad. As we ascended the mountain I was constantly trying to draft or lead, but no matter what keep as much mud out of my eyes as possible....my attempts failed....I still have dirt in my dang eyes! Regardless, we finished Red Road as a group of 6 and started to head to blood rock. I went into the woods last out of the group but made up a spot after witnessing some miracle saves by a guy in front of me. Once we made it 80% through blood rock, there was a log jam so I happily dismounted for the final section and then started my descent chase. After the descent started to level out some I had caught back onto the pack for our transition back towards climbs and tight trails.
For the rest of the lap, we were really limited by the conditions of the trail. Most corners were full of mud or standing water so we certainly weren't flying, but we definitely were going at a speed that required full concentration. As we came into the finish area to complete lap 1, somewhere about 1:40, we had 5 guys together. We had to make a horseshoe through the parking lot and climb about ½ mile of road before the single track climbing. I decided in this moment that I was about to go all in for my day. The road started to kick up somewhat, and I sped up towards the front. The Harrison and I were definitely in a brief dual to see who would make it to the single track climbs first, but I was committed to being there first!
Once my tires hit that section of trail, it was game on! I definitely increased the pace and focused on making the race as hard as I could. After a couple of switch backs I noticed I had a gap and then it was all about maintaining momentum and mental fortitude! I don't know how large my gap was leaving the climbs up Hyde, but I do believe I was completely out of sight from the chasers. As I tackled the short descent I still was out front and had roughly 10-15 minutes of trail to go! A couple of climbs came up and I powered up them like a champ! I had one little dab in some mud but I felt like nothing could stop the Unicorn Magic! Nearing the top of the last major climb I looked over my shoulder and saw The Harrison chasing me down solo. As I previously mentioned, that young man never gives up and I greatly appreciate the drive he is bringing to these races! That sight was plenty motivating so I upped the pace again for a flat / descent section and felt like I had the race locked up with only about 5 minutes to go!
Unfortunately, this story does not end well....
In the closing minutes of the race, I somehow started to feel my rear tire get soft. Riding down some rock drops, I confirmed it was flat.... I just poured my heart and energy into a race winning, long distance attack and it was all washed away due to a flat tire.
I pulled myself together and stopped on the side of the trail. The Harrison passes me. I can't get my saddle bag open because it's jammed with mud. Once I get the pump out I can't get it to work...because I am an idiot....always test out your emergency equipment folks. Patrick passes me. I start to get some air into the tire and Justin passes me. Unfortunately for Justin he had a flat as he passed me. I limp through the next 5 minutes on a tire going flat and finish the day in 3rd.
I lost the race. I gave everything I had but came up short. It was a variable I couldn't really control, but it still stung...bad! However, that race is over and now it's time to come back stronger than ever! We have 2 races weekends left in the series that include XC and bonus STXC events! The series win is still obtainable, I just have to be the best version of myself that I can! Time to unleash some more Unicorn Magic and storm through the finale of this season on my journey to West Virginia!
|Click here for the Ride with Dustin page complete with race schedule and post-race reports.|