If you dont know about the Ouachita Challenge, its pretty simple. Its a 60 mtb race based out of Oden, AR. It is basically two epic trails hooked together by gravel and pavement. The first half, the Ouachita, has a lot of climbing and a lot of rocks. The second half, the Womble, is much faster and has more flow.
As usual, the race starts off with a long ride on gravel which leads to the Ouachita Trail. This year people were pretty antsy on the gravel. Eventually the gravel leads to a fairly long climb and at the top is the entrance to the singletrack. At the bottom of the climb I moved towards the front of the pack and by the top there were only a few of us left. I had preridden the first little section of singletrack (rock garden) a few times the day before so I could be sure to make it through without having to get off the bike. I was successful and from the sounds behind me, second place wasnt. A quick descent and I still didnt think anyone was right behind me. Then a climb back up and I finally look back and cant see anyone. Its only 5 minutes into the singletrack and Im on my own.
Halfway through Big Brushy I switch to the small ring on a climb, thinking I had better save some energy for later. This is my most major problem of the day. The cable slips and im stuck in the small ring. I dont figure its a big issue until after Blowout Mtn when we hit the pavement. So at AidStation 1 I tell the pit crew im going to need some tools at Sims to get this remedied. Things go pretty well over Blowout (no flats) and I only suffer one trip over the bars, which is just now starting to really hurt. Onto the pavement and im stuck in the little ring and spinning for all im worth. I finally roll into Sims and pull of to do some mechanic work. It only takes about a minute to fix, but I figure I lost some time riding on thepavement already. Im told I had a 2 minute lead at the first Aid Station so I push on. As Im pedaling into the wind on the road I am envisioning a pack of guys closing in on me, working together. At the end of the road and back onto the trail, im told I had a 5 minute gap at Sims.
By the time I hit the Womble, 2nd and 3rd have worked together a bit on the road and have closed to 2:30. Im fairly confident at this point I can hold them off, as I love riding the Womble. The heat is pretty bad on the Womble as the sun is baking and there isnt any breeze, plus its a long haul from the 298 aid station to the finish. On top of the heat im worried about switching out of the big ring, as I know ill need it on the gravel into Oden. The only satisfaction from pushing the big ring all the way home is I figure nobody else is, so if I dont completely blow up, nobody should be able to catch me. Things go well though, except for consistently suprising the volunteers manning the neutral feeds, course marshall types, and checkpoint people.
When I finally hit the last gravel section for the ride into Oden I keep looking back, making sure there isnt anyone coming and cruise through town. Ending up stretching the lead back out a bit to almost five minutes and happily didnt have to push too hard in the last miles like last year when I was trying to make up for numerous flats.
One of the great things about the Ouachita Challenge is that they hand you your trophies and awards the very second you cross the finish line. No standing around for hours waiting for the results. However, after a shower we hung around, watching many happy finishers for the next few hours anyways.
Posted by AaronE. at 9:33 PM