June 3rd, 2018
Survived the Alabama heat
Race #7 in the SERC series took us to Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, AL. Nestled nearly 5 hours from my home in South Carolina, this was going to be a roadtrip weekend. I departed Saturday morning heading towards the park. Not realizing the negative time change, I arrived with an extra hour to fill. Once in the park, I will realized how nice this place was. Filled with several picnic areas, campgrounds, beaches, and showers, this place had tons to offer.
Saturday I prerode the course with some friends to see some of the trails. Our Sunday race course was said to contain 2 loops. A 20mi loop followed by a smaller 10mi loop. This legendary race had been active for 20+ years, and supposably has always followed a similar route. The beginning started on a loose walking trail around the lake. This section lasted maybe 20 minutes, then took the riders into the dreaded doubletrack climb. Everyone has talked about this 15+ minute tough rocky climb to the top. When there, the doubletrack continues until you drop back into the trail. Launching you downhill for awhile, you approach the infamous Blood Rock section. Filled with rocks and small drops, this segment is seen as ‘most-gnarly’ in the park. Continuing to go downhill, the descent goes through several fast rocky sections. At the bottom, the singletrack ensues, twisting through pine and trees. Ending the first lap then directs the course back into a different section of trail. Climbing back up through the wooded rollers, we were again preparing for a descent. The trail continued along a ridge before dropping back down into a few fast sections. The course ended on the pavement and finished in the parking lot. Overall this course was longer than a normal cross country race. With the heat scheduled for Sunday, we all knew it’d be tough.
The pro/cat 1/elite race attracted a massive 27 riders. With a small start stretch, the beginning of the race was pretty important. I took off from the line and funneled into the singletrack about 5th wheel. Several young guns led the pack through the first trail, setting a fast pace. Picking my way through a few, I sat in 3rd heading into the long climb. Hoping to work with the others, our lead pack of 3 set a decent pace up the climb. Navigating between washouts, large rocks, and other debris, we continued. One rider in the group, Grant, dropped off before the top. Navigating the rest of the doubletrack, me and the other rider, Ryan, stayed together. I went back into the singletrack first, before letting him squeeze by on an open section. We cleaned Blood Rock and continued downhill. Picking or way through sharp rocks, we were closely matched. As the wooded section approached, Ryan tamed the speed back a bit. The heat up until this point was scorching. Hovering over 90 degrees, it was un-economical to carry enough water, or so I thought. I went by, into the lead to keep the pace high. I had a good lead heading in to complete lap 1. Grabbing more water, then heading back into the woods for the second and final lap, the long climb was definitely not easy. The heat had got to me too. Knowing the tough parts were behind me, I kept focus. Heading through the final descents were sketchy. Bouncing from rock to rock, hoping not to flat. I arrived back into the parking lot first. 2 hours and 20 minutes since the start, I was glad to see the finish.
1st among a large crowd and keeping the leader’s jersey for another week! This race was both exciting and hard. The heat affected nearly everyone and kept us all anticipating the finish.
1 more SERC race to finish out to series — Helen, GA!