Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Race Report - Oramm in the books!!

To say getting to Oramm was a challenge is a huge understatement. The whole goal was set after a shoulder injury & subsequent surgery in 2017 had me so out of shape I decided to get the Eclipse Racing gang back together and go big, and Oramm was the target. TLDR Warning, it's a long report!

To recap, I got serious in January, and crashed in my first event resulting in a back injury. Then had a spleen issue a few weeks later. Then had chest pain symptoms that turned out to be
caused by gastritis. All of which were serious enough to knock me off the bikes for a few weeks at a time. The hits just kept coming, but despite the doubt and lost training time, I was able to focus on the bike just enough to drop 20lbs and get some effective training done with Freddy from F2 Performance Lab. Alex meanwhile cranked away for months like he hadn't done in years. An Oramm veteran, Mike was taking a relaxed approach to his prep as he knew what would be in store for him and his SS setup.

Now for the trip. What a great time we had! Coming from Miami, FL means 12 hours to Old Fort, NC. We decided to leave on Friday and stop in SC to hit up the FATS trail system. Man what a blast we had. We kept it easy on the Brown Wave and Skinny trails which are mostly flow trails and just let it rip. Didn't want to hammer any climbs, just wanted to have some fun and break up the drive. We wrapped up the drive to Asheville, NC and called it a night after dinner.

Saturday was preride day and Boyco gave us the low down. Rather than over doing it trying to get familiarized with every possible section, we focused on the Kitsuma trails as we'd hit them twice in the main event. After some final bike adjustments and getting lost a little bit, we started the road climb to Kitsuma. With month of long steady efforts, but no real climbing I was curious to see how the climbing legs would show up. I was pleased with my 2x10 gear selection and thrilled I'd dropped so much weight. The legs felt great and I was able to match what we'd trained in an actual climbing situation. Compared to my prep for Fool's Gold in 2014 I was thrilled with what was to come. Taking it easy we hit the singletrack section and all it's switchback glory about 30 minutes later. The steep turnarounds took some getting used to, but we figured out a rhythm and grinded to the top. Then the fun started. Not having hit "real" downhills in many years I eased into it making sure I wasn't going to fly off the bench cut trails. Was just getting comfortable when some rear brake squishyness reared it's head. Nothing like 50% stopping power to shake the nerves.... I adjusted the lever a bit and improved it, but my confidence was shot and I kept it slow going until we hit the bottom. We gathered up and after some relaxing and beverages, we hit an Asheville shop who was kind enough to try to fix my brakes. They didn't quite have all tools needed for a proper bleed, but they felt better so I hoped I'd be set. 

Sunday came and it was show time. We arrived a little later than planned but managed to make the start line with only minutes to spare. Unfortunately Alex was fighting some stomach issues from the day before and had to take care of business and missed the start. Boyco rolled in without a care in the world. I was jealous....We rolled off and I quickly wound up in no man's land. Wasn't able to keep up with lead group cold, and was ahead of the 2nd group that was really easing into it. After about 10 minutes of rolling we hit the climb. I set into my power range and went for it. Pace was decent for me but was getting reeled in by more comfortable climbers. ALL the Boycos passed me! Mike, his dad and even his little brother! (Ah to be 15 and skinny again...) I kept my focus and made it to the top feeling good. Now on to the fun descents. I felt comfortable quickly for the first 10 minutes and managed now to slow people up, then the brake fade returned and I had to pull over. Fidgeted with brake reach a few times, then eventually crawled to the bottom safely. Was making another adjustment when Alex came roaring by trying to make up on lost time! I got the brakes to where I was happy again and off I set to chase down Alex.

The flat road was a nice change as about the only thing I was used to! I pushed the pace a bit and had a small train latch on my wheel, having me second guessing that I may be going too hard, but I was feeling good so I kept at it. We hit the next rest stop and there was Alex so I topped off bottles and grabbed a few munchies quickly and off we went. Now started the never ending Curtis Creek climb that I'd been warned about, and lived up to it's reputation. This thing was just and endless grind. Not much to say here, just find your climbing rhythm and hold it for over an hour. Made it to the rest stop at what I thought was the end of the climb, only to find another few miles of road to climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful views and all, I was ready to start pointing down. Before that came, there was a gnarly hike a bike to take care of. A few minutes later and it was finally time to let it rip down the appropriately named Heartbreak Ridge. Somewhere along the way Alex and I were back together again heading into the decent. Admittedly I walked a ton of the early sections. Huge rock sections and iffy brakes didn't really have me gleaming with confidence. Finally found the brake reach that gave me maximum stopping power that I could still reach with one finger and finally got rolling consistently. This was the longest downhill I've ever ridden! I took the chicken line but I was committed, but unfortunately slipped on a root near the bottom and had a small tire burp and had to put my foot down, setting off the Hecklers howls! All in good fun, I carried on. 
Time to hike a bike!

Having survived the toughest section of the race feeling good despite the brake delays. I knew there was about 90 minutes or less to go and I had finally resolved my brake issues, I got my last wind. I knew we'd have a steady climb back to Kitsuma, so I set into my pace while trying to conserve some energy for the switchbacks. Somewhere along the way down, Alex damaged a pedal and was slowed down a bit, so here is where we parted ways. I made it to the switchbacks, and while my steady effort power was hanging in there, the intense power needed to make it around the switchbacks was mostly gone. I'd make it around a few bends then need to stop and recover, or walk around the bend. Took a little longer than the first time, but I made it, only this time, I had brakes going down! Finally I was able to let it rip and tried to pin it down as best I could. Made it to the bottom safely and saw Freddy with some words of encouragement and a splash of cold water telling me there was only a few miles to go. Knowing it was easy rollers to the end I rode with a grin from ear to ear as hard as I could go to the finish. Alex came by about 10 minutes later. Broken pedal, stomach issues and all, he was grinning ear to ear as well crossing the line. 

Post race dip!

Considering the rough journey I had to make it to Oramm, finishing was enough for me. Clock time was slow due to mechanicals and stopping a little tooo long at the stops, but my riding time was reasonable for my expectations so I came out of this thrilled. I joined the Boycos and Alex with a traditional dip in the cold stream nearby and a cold beer and reminisced about what we'd just been through. Knowing that this year's course was about 10 miles shorter than usual, we'll definitely be back to conquer Oramm in it's entirety soon! Time to take a few weeks off and plan out the rest of the year. Once again we'd like to thank Freddy Viera with F2 Performance Lab for getting us prepared for this event. Enjoy some pics below and keep following along!

The squad!