Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Green River Games

I was pretty stoked to try my first Enduro race this past weekend. I had heard that the Green River Games was a "downhiller's" Enduro as it is a really steep, exposed, raw, and technical trail system in the Green River Gorge. Being someone who used to race a lot of DH, this sounded great to me.

The wifey, junior, and I head up to Hendersonville on Thursday. I was hoping to get a ride in at the Gorge so that I could at least be familiar with the terrain and turns. Never worked out to ride the entire Green River Gorge trails, but I did get to check out most of stage 3. It had been raining for a few days prior to getting here and pretty much all day on Thursday so it was gonna be muddy. It was one of those rides where I was so wet that soon as I got to the car I had to get my shoes and socks off!

On Friday the little guy and I got a full tour of Industry Nine facilities and production machine shop. A huge treat to get to see how those pimp azz wheels get built.

Afterwords I didn't want to tackle to big of a ride, but felt like hitting something fun. Looks like a ride on the Green's Lick trail in Bent Creek area is in order. A little sloppy, but always a fun spot that never disappoints.

Race day finally arrives and we have to be up at 5:30am to be able to check out of our hotel, get breakfast, double check the bike, and get down the Gorge and be ready to go at 7:30am. I'm less then amused - those who know me can attest to the fact that I'm the least thing from a morning person. I'm pretty nervous because I have no idea what I'm in for. I'm really wishing that I had gotten a chance to ride the course at least once right now. One thing I noticed right away on my first drive down the 19 sketchy switchbacks on Thursday is how beautiful this gorge is. Why have I not gotten out here sooner? That is going to change for sure. It looks even more pristine with the sunrise. Attend the racer's meeting and the promoter is going on and on about how hard the riding is out here and how dangerous of an area it is. I'm really not getting warm fuzzies over here about now. I wait until my name is called (we had 1 minute interval staggered start times) and head out for a big day on the bike.

Photo Cred: GoJamMedia

First thing I notice is how hot it is, and it's only 8am. Second thing I notice is how technical the "easy" trail is that we have 90 minutes to climb up to get to the top of Stage one. This trail is very "heart of pisgah" in nature at times and it's pretty slick. There were no easy miles at all and I was having to power up stuff over and over. I know that burning these matches is going to come back to bite me later. After an hour I had only gone 3.8 miles and I have 6 miles to get to the top! I finally get up top and want to sit down and rest after 89 minutes(we were given 90 minutes before penalty), but I'm called for my start time on stage 1.

Finally getting to enjoy some descending. Right away I notice that besides being really steep, it's also really loose. The fun part of that is you can rear steer it a little with the rear brake. The bad part is I'm just waiting for the front to tuck and put me on my face. I went into the race thinking that I'd hold back a little since I wasn't able to ride most of the course. Well, that went out the window once I got a feel for the dirt a little. I can always tell when I start pushing it and going fast. How can I tell you ask? Soon as my brain starts saying "Jon, you should really be wearing a full face helmet for this shiznit". That's when I know that I'm pushing it!

What happens next is basically a blur. I see a little drop coming up and I wheelie drop it. For those that don't know, a wheelie drop is when you pull the front end up as you launch off something that usually has a flat take off. This way your bike is balanced evenly front to back in the air and you land nice and smooth on both tires at roughly the same time. It was a very needed skill when I raced downhill and I'm glad I learned it because I use it tons now.

Good example of a wheelie drop - I may have not gone this big

Anyway, what I saw before I wheelie dropped was the trail after the landing generally going a little to the left. As I go off the drop a branch kinda smacks my face lightly. Just enough to make me close my eyes for a second. Upon opening my eyes I got some bad news. Trail goes hard to the right. I try and stuff the front wheel down into the turn and hold on. No bueno - funny thing is I thought the Rhododendrums would stop me. Nope. Something about a hot knife and butter ring a bell?!? Next thing I know I start sliding down a really steep mountainside. Lucky for me, I spotted a small tree and hooked my arm around it. Not so lucky for my bike, it kept on going. I do a quick examination of myself and I appear to be ok. I rang my bell some and my knee doesn't feel daisy fresh, but nothing appears major. I'm full of mud and dirt head to toe. Mud is packed in one of my ears, all over the right side of my face and body. My knee pad went up my inner thigh and is getting frisky. I finally spot my bike and it's a long way down the really steep hill. I have to scale this hillside carefully to not slip and fall again. Takes at least 30 minutes to get the bike and get trailside again. Bikes not terrible considering. I straighten some things - bars, break levers, saddle, try and fix the rear break, etc.., and then mount up. One thing that I can't believe is that my Garmin is still on my bars. How the hell? Kuddos to you guys at Garmin, that stuff works! I make my way to the bottom of Stage 1 and I'm really late. Bike is also shifting like crap. A bent deraileur hanger tends to do that I guess? Most of the volunteers and timers have already left bottom of stage one. I'm told by someone though that I probably won't make it to Stage 2 before they pack up and I will definitely get the time penalty if anyone is even there to start me. After a quick assessment I decide to ride out and DNF. I really hate a DNF, but considering the circumstance it seems reasonable. I'll be back for sure next year though. Really like being in that Gorge in general. Next year I'll be sure to ride a bunch out there before the race. Thanks to the guys and girls who put this race on for a great event and for helping get us more trails to ride!

Green River Games 1, Jon 0

Next Enduro for me will be Cranksgiving at Paris Mountain in Greenville November 21-23rd. Can't wait, really like this kind of racing. SYOTT.