Thursday, October 2, 2014

Race Report & Pics: Fools Gold 50

Eric G here, still catching up with our Summer race reports. The last few months have been focused on preparing for the Fools Gold 50, a 50 mile endurance race in the mountains of North Georgia. Mike's prep work consisted of carrying his Oramm training on, but shifting the focus to the upcoming XC season. Throw in a tough 200k Permanent in South Florida and he was set. I was keeping it local and was going to use some local endurance races to test my training. I had a terrible Rumble in the Jungle with a DNF after smashing a front wheel just 3 laps in, but made up for it with a 3rd place showing in the 6 Hours of Oleta. Endurance races always take a bit of luck, and for once it was on my side. With a few racers ahead of me dropping out with a myriad of issues, I just rode steady enough and fought off cramps during the much of the second half of the race to finish on the podium. Luck or not, preparation had gone well and we were ready for Georgia

The Eclipse Racing Transport
This would be my first attempt at a race of this distance outside of Florida. Those that know me fully understand Endurance events are NOT my strength. Boyco has more experience in races like these and this would actually be his 3rd Fools Gold attempt. Our friend David Bohl from our Bike Tech sister team would join us for the adventure. He too has some decent endurance race experience and was excited to tackle his 7th endurance race of the year. While these guys were looking to set PRs, I was just looking to survive the nearly 7000 feet of climbing in the event!
Some fun at Dauset Trails

We started our planned 10 hour drive early Thursday. Our transport would be a MONSTER Chevy Van. We removed one row from the 12 seat beast which left us plenty of room for our 3 bikes, our bags and a probably even a Mini Cooper. With the ride covered, the proper thing to do would be to rest, do a little recon on Friday and race hard on Saturday. So instead, we proceeded to ride every day, having tons of fun leading up to the race. On the drive up, we stopped at Dauset Trails in Jackson, Ga. A fun trail system with nothing too technical, that we found at least, with nice flowy, fast trails. Nothing too steep in either direction. Turned out to be a great way to loosen up the legs. We didn't overcook it and just had a great time. After the ride we continued our drive to the hotel.

The scenic Montaluce Vineyard & Estates
Next day was spent transferring to another hotel (Accidentally chose a SMOKING room), checking out the local life in the City Center of Dahlonega, Ga. then off the the race venue at the beautiful Montaluce Vineyard and Estates. We checked in with the Organizers to get the inside info on the nice trails to check out, and had an encounter with the legend himself, Tinker Juarez! Off we drove to the Jake Mountain trails which would be part of the race loop. Again we were treated to fast trails with great flow. A little more technical and steep than Dauset, we rode carefully to not burn out the day before the race. We even got familiar with a couple of stream crossings that would be in the race. Nearly 2 hours there and we had enough. Chatted up with some other racers at the trailhead when we got back then called it a day. The evening was spent on final bike checks and supplies preparation. As the rookie, I decided I would take the "No Bonk" approach to the race and would fully stock up two drop bags as well as carry tons of supplies and Cytomax in my Camelbak. If I didn't finish the race, it certainly wasn't going to be for lack of nutrition. Boyco had a more relaxed approach. He had no intentions of using drop bags and his hydration plan involved killing all the moldy stuff in the old small camelbak that I let him borrow. He'd later tell me it was a bit surreal sitting around the hotel room watching TV and doing nothing while Bohl and I got all our gear together for the race. Bohl took an in between approach with a couple of drop bags, but had them precisely prepared for his needs.

Bishop & the 100 Milers
Finally race morning arrived. We need to be at the venue prior to the 6:20am cut-off for the drop bags. We just made it then got ready to roll. We watched the 100 milers go off which contained a nice group of South Florida friends along with the NUE Series leaders such as Jeremiah Bishop and Tinker Juarez.

One of the stream crossings
Our turn was up and I picked a nice safe mid pack position. Didn't want to get sucked up with the adrenaline of a race start. Boyco was with me, but he went off quickly to move up in the pack. The neutral lead out took us to the local streets for a nice cruise on the rolling roads of the area. About 20 minutes in the pavement became gravel and started pointing UP. Based on the route I'd seen online, I knew this was the start of the tough stuff. The result was 40 minutes before I hit the top of at climb. I found my granny gear and just set my pace. Boyco's initial cruising plan worked out as his hard tempo pace had him passing tons of riders who went out too hard midway up the climb.

About 90 minutes in and I was finally to the highest point of the event. Not gonna lie, I'd never climbed that much before and it almost went south at the end. The final climb had a steep kicker had me doubting myself when I saw some people pushing their bikes! As I got closer I realized they were single speeders and I still had one more gear left. 24/36 to the rescue! Crisis averted!! The reward for this was blasting downhill on open gavel roads for about 20 minutes. Speeds quickly changed from about 7mph uphill to over 30mph down! Took me a few minutes to get comfortable with the speeds but when I was alone I had a blast just letting the brakes go and pinning it down! Finally, about 2 hours in we hit some single track. I was definitely more comfortable here. We ride fast in the trails at home, so it was nice to get in my element and just feel like I was out for a long ride. As Mike said, the weather was fantastic, the dirt was dry, and the woods were never-ending and spectacular and allowed aggressive riding. I Mixed it up with some other racers. Let them by or made my passes, not trying to rush anyone and just stay clean and out of the way.

View from up high
Made it to the second rest stop pretty fresh, topped off my supplies and kept going. I was riding in a small group and everything was going great and we just hit a stream crossing and started a climb. This one was a little rougher than the others, but I just kept pushing along. about 10 or so minutes in we get to the top to come across other racers telling us we're going the wrong way!! Ugh!! We back tracked to the stream and found the error of our way. So about 3 miles in the wrong direction wasn't too bad, what was bad was that we were now at the base of the second longest climb of the day! Really it wasn't that bad, but it just messes with your head. Eventually everyone got into their rhythm and we trekked on. The route looped back to the previous rest stop for a second time at mile 39. Still mostly fresh, Off I set with what should be about 11 miles to go!

Even saw this on race day
Made it to the Jake Mountain trails that we had become familiar with and I decided to get out of my "survival" pace and kick it up a little bit. I was having a blast! Carving where I could, jumping for no reason, really enjoying the ride. Blasted through a cold stream crossing that we had hit the day before and was smiling ear to ear! A few miles later though, I carve a berm and feel my rear tire low on air. 45 miles in and NOW I'm getting a flat?? Wasted about 10 minutes between trying to make the Stans seal up the tire with no luck and finally deciding to put a tube in. Got that out of the way, but now I was scared of pinch flatting with no more spare tubes. I dropped the pace and went back to survival mode.

Except for one brief rendezvous with a thorn bush, Boyco kept it upright (he almost went off the side of the mountain several times the day before...) mostly and rode strongly until the end. The last 10 miles were tough and he slowed down quite a bit but recovered and rode the last few road miles hard. The final tenth of a mile through tall, flattened grass hurt like hell, but came across at 4:44, good enough for 31st. I hit the last rest stop which was mile 47 and I was thrilled!! Thrilled that is until I ride by without stopping and hear the dude telling me "About SEVEN more miles to go!" 7 miles? 47 plus 7 is NOT 50 miles! In addition I had the 3 extra miles on my Garmin, so I'm thinking "How far did I go in the wrong direction!?!?!?" I'd later find out it was a 55 mile loop. Guess I need to pay better attention during the riders meeting next time! Now my head was a little shot and I'd gotten sloppy with the eating so my energy was down. I settled myself when a rider told me we were almost back to the road which would be about 4 miles to go. Back on the pavement I survived to the end with a little motivation from some racers that were near me. Just before the finish there was a final stream crossing where Boyco and Bohl we cheering (heckling) me to the finish. I trudged on and finished together with another rider in just over 6 hours!

All smiles after a great event!
End of the day we had some recovery beers and great tacos provided by the organizers. Chatted up with some friends that were in the race and told stories of our day. My travel partners both finished the event in under 5 hours! Great for them! I figure I left about 30 minutes on the trail between the detour and the flat and just generally not rushing through the rest stops. Clearly a better beer drinker than climber, I wasn't going to blast up those long climbs on this trip even if I wanted to. Ultimately I was happy with my experience.

Hope you enjoyed our story. Check out some pics below. It's a great event put on by Mountain Goat Adventures and we'll definitely be back again next year! Wanted to thank Bike Tech as always for keeping us on the best gear and fully loaded with supplies. Also want to thank Freddy Viera owner of F2 Performance Lab who helped me prepare for this event. His endurance experience and coaching helped put me in the right direction to do well in what is not a strong event for me. Now it's on to the Gone Riding FSC, Florida's premier XC Series. We'll be hitting the trails at Alafia this weekend for FSC #3. Come back soon for report and pics of the cross country season. See you on the trails!

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