Note: This year’s edition had a reroute due to high water at the creek crossings. This was a USFS decision based on the flow rate of the water, and in my opinion was definitely the right call.
Rain and rain and rain and rain. There was a strong storm that I drove through for packet pick-up, and then it rained most of the night. All told, it was only supposed to be an inch, but the race itself starts low and climbs high several different times, and even the river crossing on dry years will be knee deep.
The start was delayed and the announcement was made that the rangers wouldn’t allow us to cross the low water bridge right after the start due to the flow rate being very high ( it was indeed raging white water at this point.) Then there was talk of a possible re-route to get rid of ALL of the water crossings. This was going to drastically change this race, as this would mean that the hardest sections (pure nonsense…rocks, ledges, you name it) would be scrapped in order to keep anyone from crossing the raging torrents. This would also mean over 12 miles of gravel ( 4 miles of pavement as well) would have to be utilized to take us up and around the creeks, and then drop us into a section of the trail.
The details finalized, we gather for the start and the realization that the paved climb out of the campground is going to be a long, slow slog, but at least our feet will be dry right? Wrong, it starts to rain a bit. Off we go, up this bitch of a hill and then onto another section of pavement. We hang a right onto the gravel and everyone suddenly thinks they’re going to go as fast as humanly possible. Twelve miles later, we hit the singletrack, and then it’s a blur of rocks, and rocks, and rocks.
The trail is in really good shape, and not too muddy. I was riding in 4th for some time, and got passed at one of the aid stations. I then had a loose cleat drop me down a few more places, and in the end I was 7th (8th over all, as a single speeder blew past me the last time I was tightening my cleat.) and a little over 5 hours of ride time. A pretty good day, and I achieved my goal of a top 10 finish at easily the hardest mtb race in AR.
Bike dork stuff:
Niner Air 9 HT, 1×11
Ikon 2.35 front at 20 psi / Ikon 2.2 rear at 21 psi
4 bottles of Tailwind – 2 on the bike and 2 in my drop bag at Aid 2. I went without a camelbak for this race, and it was the right decision.
I wore my “b” shoes as I thought we would be crossing creeks and rivers. I failed to check to make sure the cleats were tight…dumb Brent.
More race info here.
This race powered by Tailwind, the complete, all in one endurance fuel. All you need, all day, Really.