The race start line is about 45min-1hr southwest of Hot Springs. Me and Zoll rolled down Saturday morn. The poor dood ate something bad Friday night and was battling mild food poisoning for the whole ride down from St Louie. Which then lingered until night fall where we camped in the school parking lot.
Upon packet pick up we ran into some friendly faces from STL. Stevesie, Derek, Hunt, Matt, Maria, Mary, Laura, Rogo, and a handful of others. It was crazy the presence St Louis had at this race. The organizes use the school cafeteria for the pre-race meeting/prize raffle/spaghetti dinner. Many-o-dessert cookies were smashed into my face hole. I boogied on out early giving away my ticket to Big Red, and got ready for beddybed. Was in my sleeping bag by 8:30. It was raaaaaad.
Morning rolled around and I was ready to shred. I knew the long night was the ticket when I was my good ol fashioned early morning all rev'ed up annoying self. It was go time. Got some light breakfast and hit the start line.
There was a pace truck for the first 3miles so there wasn't any real action other than mildly dangerous skid stops when the front of the pack of off road bikes would slow down unexpectedly. What ev, but when the race was on it was freakin on. After that 3miles you got about another 5 of gravel road to double track that ungulates up to the single track that is Ouachita Trail.
A couple miles into the dbl track I roll up on Griffin Hamilton. Super strong rider from KC area who straight handed it to me at Berryman Epic last fall. He hopped on my wheel for a minute as we started to hit some uphill rollers thus pooping out geared riders. I got next to him and wanted to chit chat. I asked "Yo Griffin, whats up man? Its been awhile whats the word?" He must have been redlined, because his response with his head slightly down was "blelrljfaudufaldfks sljfoehahfafha. elafoiaehfaofa." I'm still not sure what he actually told me. So just decided to attack a little on him until the singletrack.
He must of been rockin a way easy gear cuz it was probably 10 min into the technical trail riding that is Ouachita Trail that Griffin was on my ass. And within a min of that he gives me the ol' "Can I get by, guy?" I'm no jerk and know were my strengths are and with the gear I was pushing with tech climbing and some steep punchy (sometimes long) uphills, I allowed his pass. Away he went. I made a brief half assed effort for all of maybe 30 seconds to keep him in sight, but decided there was plenty more race ahead of us. (So my assumption that Grif had a easier gear was wrong finding out in later conversation. It was sometime middle of last year when he told me, but was only as of now that have had the opp or memory to correct the matter. Sorry Griff, much love to ya! Fixed March 10th 2016 almost one year after we raced together, haha. )
And then WhamBam! Another SSer was there. Eric Leamon on a rigid Niner with a bluuuuue fork. Another natural born climber this young grasshopper, and away he went just like Griffin disappearing off behind the trees. I wasn't too worried about Eric though. The previous 3 times I did Ouachita was on a rigid fork, and knew it could crumble even a strong man. Hell, I still had on Old Reba from TrueGrit. I'm no dumbdumb. Its not selling out or lack of tuffnus, its wanting to go fast. Anyways, by the time I got through OT and halfway into the infamous Blowout Mtn I was within view of Eric. For the next handful of miles we would leap frog a bit for multiple reasons, but by the final downhill coming down off the last of the Ozark mountains I gave him the ol' heaveho and dropped him. The trail then dumps out on to gravel then pavement which then begins the 12mile road section through Sims and off to Highway 248 Aid station.
This is where I went sooo pro! Ya see the 2011 race I had no clue what I was in for. 2012 I was stronger and smarter. I decided to wrap the insides of my handlebars with road bar tape to pad it so I could get aero on my forearms. The move i have now used for years The Single Speed Aero Tuck or TSSAT. Its a move that Dan Fuhrmann loves to hate on, but he's also got insanely wide bars so thats my little dig back on him. So I get out onto the gravel. I'm in a rush, but have to pee crazy bad. I first try a move I just can't dial in for the life of me. The piss off the bike. I just end up tinkling on my right shoe and then almost dump myself over the bars cuz I tap the front brake. Wrong Peat! So I stop and pee for the longest time. I was almost able to recite all of Meat Loaf's Bat out of hell.
This is where I get pro. Since previously I always rode a Niner rigid fork, I couldn't use the fork crowns as resting points for my hands to get lower, but this time around in the great year of 2015 with my borrowed Reba I could! It was rad and sad. TSSAT was now perfected. All the Dan Fuhrmann's of the world could point and laugh, but HAHA victory was mine. The head wind was crippling and I slowly road away from that distant rider behind me. I also made ground on the two geared riders annnnnd passed them. However, they did hop on my wheel and tried holding it. As we rolled through Sims on the pavement I never broke form and just continued to drill it while dropping one of the geared riders. Pussy, you can't hold a SSers wheel. I looked back once and saw that I was destroying the chump who was still on my wheel. It was kinda funny and it probably sounds like I have major ego, but really now. Geared riders are supposed to pull SSers on road sections. I then got that dude to self destruct. The next time I glanced over my shoulder he was drifting like trash in the wind, poor soul.
I kept in TSSAT until the small section of singletrack that connected to 248 Aid station where they then dump you back onto gravel for 3ish miles to the start of the Womble. Hopping into the Womble Trail I began to think of Griffin and whether or not the road section crushed him.
FYI, I totally know this pic is hella cheez. This guys a cornball, but it gets the point across and the race website doesn't have pics up yet.
After about 20 mins or so, I start seeing riders up ahead of me. It takes another few mins to gain. I realize its my little buttercup Griffin and he's pacing some geared rider with a very neon kit.
I sit up and chill for a moment deciding to coast up to him saving some juice for later when all of a sudden I'm riding his wheel. The three of us dip through a few creek crossings and up some punchy climbs, when Griff pulls over and tries to wave me by. I politely decline saying he's got a good pace and hang behind him. I then start singing the "Hey Griffin yer so fine, yer so fine you blow my mind" song and his response is classic. "Aw no, you got toooo much energy!" Haha, thats when I had an inkling I had the race. Though its best not to get ones hopes up when theres still 15 miles left.
We chitchat for a minute. I mention how I was killing the road section, and he tells how the road section killed him. Hmmm. I then start to sing a gay(as in happy) song to the young geared rider and his response is more flighty. He drills it and drops our asses after doing nothing but granny gearing the previous climbs, that jerk. Griff then admits defeat and encourages me to go get that dude. I try, but the sections of gravel roads breaking up the last of the Womble made it hard. Didn't help that I was out of water and everything with 9miles to go. My drive though was from True Grit 2weeks prior of how actually thirsty I was riding through the desert. It sucked! So today in Arkansas when I was in the shade mostly and the temp was a cool 75 it was no ish. Whats 9miles with no water.
So drive it home I did. At 5 miles to go I hit the last gravel. I check the time on my 8 function Bontrager wireless computer and remember that the time is 1hr behind still on Utah time. Second, I'm not really sure what time the race official started the clock. And third I always set my clock just a few minutes fast. So WHAT THE HELL TIME WAS IT???? My guess was that my clock was about maybe 53mins behind, maybe? So when it was approaching 1pm, my clock said 11:53am. That gave me now 4.5miles in 7mins. Dang, well lets see what happens. And drill it I do. TSSAT and all, but then I hit the last monster gravel climb. I imagine myself lighting the rest of my matches at once watching 'em burn like a back country trash burn pile, but reality is different. I see that geared rider kid in the neon green yellow whatever, and try to make him my carrot. Works okay I gain from about 90ft to 20ft by the top of the climb when he is able to then begin the super fast decent back into Oden. He's got gears and full suspension. Perfect for long fast down hills. I on the other hand have one gear which even though 38/22 was big for the day, it was no match for that downhill. I crest the peak of the climb and check my time. Its almost 12 or 1 or whatever and i still have 3miles to go. Crunch time boys!
I've never broke 5hrs12mins for this race so my goal was to at least crush that by 5mins. If anything always try to trim some fat off of previous times. Today though I knew was special. Even though my clock was skrewwwd up and I wasn't sure when the timer started I had that weird feeling that I should kill myself to get to the finish line. If all was in my favor I may just make sub 5 hours, maybe.
CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY, CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY, CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY!!!!
Within the last 3 miles is a crazy long down hill, some rollers, then onto pavement with more rollers and one final fast downhill. Off to the left was a dude with a bottle of whiskey shouting "Whiskey, you can't drink this on school ground!" How'd he know I love whiskey, that jerk. But, my mission was set in stone, and haste makes waste. My clock now said 12:04. I was probably over the 5hr mark but I was sooo close. I then saw volunteers pointing to go left, then another to go right onto a brief stint of dbl track. The last two turns of the race before crossing hwy 88 and then up the last demoralizing grassy knoll climb to the finish. A left right combo I had done three times prior. Times like this it becomes a nostalgia thing in my heart. Don't let up, man, don't let up! I cross the hwy 88 and mash up the grassy hill. The cog on my rear wheel is crying under the torque of the chain. My tire is spinning out in the grass. I look up to the timer and can't quite see it yet. Head down and grind up. I mash to the undefined finish line and catch a glimpse of the timer and it says 4:58:21. Sub 5hours bitches! Goal commandeered. 1st in SS and 8th overall.
Meanwhile, Fred the race announcer is yelling "Hunter Henry,no Peat Henry?" "Is that Hunter or Peat?" Ends up at packet pick up they mixed up our names/numbers along with Hunter's brother, too. All was resolved in the end and I got a fat check and a sick crystal trophy thing.
The rest of the afternoon was spent eating delicious "School Pizza" and leftover donut holes from the cafeteria breakfast courtesy or Mt Ida Donut shop. Along with all the usual post race conversation and congratulations to one another on a day well earned for all.
It took awhile for Zoll to roll in, a long while. With being sick all the previous day and puking it didn't give a good set up to crush Ouachita. Its a tuff 60miler period, and going into already wrecked doesn't help. I give him props though. I know abunch of dudes that would tap out just because they weren't winning which is LAME! But Zoll sallyforthed even though he was dead to the world and was passed by, well, almost everbody. Nice work Titty, next year you shall have your retribution.
Ouachita Mountain Challenge Association I want to thank. You guys put on a sick race with an astounding amount of smiling volunteers. You guys are rad and hope to see ya next year.
Also, Mike Best, once again thanks for the Bocomo. It helped crush souls today.
Much love to ya all.