This Throwback Thursday report comes to you courtesy of our mate, K-Dogg.
Mountain people say if you don’t like the weather just wait 10 minutes and it will change.
The 51 mile, 2013 Southern Cross Ultra CX racewas 28F degrees at the start and 34F degrees at the finish, 3 1/2 cold miserable hours later. It was so cold at the finish the hot lasagna they served outdoors was brittle before we sat down.
During the race a Powerbar became a flat, cold rock; completely inedible. Dr. Pain’s gummy-like Shot Blocks clicked when he dropped one to the ground. Water bottles spouted an ice dome with slush that had to be chewed.
What is this Cold Business?
Unaccustomed to these conditions, Irish Ed (he now lives in Washington D.C.), Dr. Pain and I pawed through a ridiculous plethora of of bike clothes of every possible combination. What to wear?
A 12 mile 10% plus dirt climb is best done naked. However, an eight mile descent begs a wool burka. If you have to change a flat, you’d best start a survival fire. We ended up horribly overdressing to cope with standing still for 30 minutes at the start. Surely we could peel layers later?
The course itself was miserable. A 400 person mass start is crazy enough without ankle-deep slimy red Georgia clay. Imagine riding a light dusting of hay over a blaze of fresh dog crap. Deep slimy ruts formed as 800 tires slipped helter skelter, careening around the initial technical 1.5 mile long cyclocross start.
The air buzzed with angry orange blobs of mud, launched off tires which slapped onto bike frames, vests and sunglasses. My heart rate maxed out at 195bpm running up one of those shite hills less than two minutes from the start. But suddenly you notice you aren’t cold anymore. Now you are feverish.
No time to change as we left the dirt and began forming little echelons, desperately chasing other little echelons heading toward the first 12 mile climb.
The Winding Stairs Climb
About 20 seconds ahead I could just make out Irish Ed’s familiar orange Cycle Logic kit, safely ensconced in the lead group. But no matter how hard our group chased, we couldn’t close the gap (I didn’t catch Ed until he crashed and flatted 30 miles later). But soon the 12 mile rocky climb began.
Immediately I was baking like a butterball turkey with the stops stuck. Sweat soaked through four layers of lined lycra and dripped down my open chest as my ticker averaged 175bpm at 6 mph. Legs were somewhere between track standing and 30 rpm.
What was I thinking? Everything moved in slow motion for an hour. Riders I could catch in 10 strokes on the flats were actually 20 seconds ahead. You had to carefully thread through a minefield of quartz and granite rocks as big as melons. Touch one this slow and you might not get going again. Cries of “that’s it!” echoed up and down the valley as people started walking.
Eventually you top out at the feed station where volunteers clang bells in your face and yell “good job!” and generally piss you off – not racing.
And then you descend, and descend, and descend some more. Four zippers head North now. Over-gloves are found. Your Powerbar is now a lollypop and all you can do is lick it. Luckily the Gu still squeezed out – on my cheek, on my gloves and on my jacket.
At 29 degrees and 37 mph your eyes weep, your nose gushes and your hands ache on the brakes. Throw in ruts and dodging boulders around every other blind curve and you’ll understand how Irish Ed eventually crashed… and flatted at the same time. He hit a big rock, flew over the bars and ended up on his knees facing away. He didn’t mention this to me when I came upon him, calmly replacing his tube. At the finish line (he still caught me after all of that) he had a mild concussion, a bloody bulb on his upper back and minor strawberries. Truly The Fighting Irish. The Fighting Irish that do yoga.
A few more hard, hot climbs, a few more freezing, scary plummets and we ended back onto the final 1.5 miles of cyclocross course. Dr. Pain was so tired he chugged half a can of the traditional beer hand up at the hardest run up hill. He said it was a tempting to bail and cruise the 1/2 mile paved shortcut back to the warm Momma-mobile (aka the minivan).
But, we both managed to click back into our pedals and stagger ahead with honor – ignoring even more irritating cheers of “good job!” or “come on buddy!, ride through the creek!, you can do it!” Personally, I was in a black mood and mumbled “I don’t give a #%*#!” and simply sloshed through the frigid water not risking a fall on my #%*#in arse this close to the finish.
Unfortunately we don’t have video due to “technical” issues – meaning it was too cold to remove gloves and push tiny camera buttons and that our Australian film crew (JOM) wasn’t at the race. He was nursing a broken collar bone.
Overall the event is well worth attending and rates a “10” in overall experience. They just need to do something about the climate up there in Dahlonega, GA. Brrrrr!