It was supposed to be 50 miles

When I last wrote, I had completed a 65 mile mountain bike ride and was feeling pretty good about my training thus far for the Dirty Kanza 200.  The next big hurdle would be Syllamo’s Revenge on May 19th, 2012.  Here is the race description from the Syllamo’s Revenge website: “Don’t miss this opportunity to test your skills and endurance on the Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.”

Unlike many mountain bike trails that have a limited area for trail construction due to property boundaries or other factors.  The Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail stretches over thousands of acres of the Ozark National Forest, and offers riders awesome scenery and beautiful views of the White River and Sylamore Creek Valleys, and the Ozark Mountains.  The race course gives riders 50 miles of single track, that has earned the IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) Epic status.

Syllamo Trail

Syllamo’s Revenge mountain bike race will be a good test of my fitness, because of the physically demanding nature of the trail and the amount of climbing involved.  It’s a self supported race, with only 3 checkpoints along the way providing minimal assistance in the form of water, fruit and energy gels.  This race will put an additional emphasis on nutrition, which I will discuss more in another article.

Welcome to Syllamo’s Revenge!

The race begins with a 400 person mass start, followed by a mile long double track climb.  The climb goes from 500 feet of elevation to about 1000 feet at a pretty steep grade.  Bang!, and they’re off!  We ride for about a half mile to the base of the climb.  I quickly realized that my Specialized S-Works 29er SS bike was geared way too high for this hill and grade.  It became a walking hill before the halfway point, which left me about in the back of the pack going into the single track.  The back of the pack at any race is a terrible spot to be!  Let’s just say that the technical ability of the riders around me were severely lacking.  They had trouble staying on their bikes at the easiest points on the trail.

Most mountain bikers love technical riding – and I generally excel at it.  It is always a challenge when riding single track with our mostly road cycling brethren.   Most have incredible legs and lungs to climb and sprint faster than most mountain bikers, but they generally lack skills to use their speed on technical single track trail.  At Syllamo, I felt like I was surrounded by the off road challenged, ugh!  As soon as the trail became slightly technical, we would be off the bike and walking.  It was like this for the first 15 miles until checkpoint one.  This was not a good way to start a long ride.

Syllamo Overlook

I arrived at checkpoint one way slower than I expected.  I quickly ate a snack and took a big gulp of my water bottle of energy drink providing me with the calories and electrolytes I needed.  Back on the trail again and headed 11 miles to checkpoint two.  After the first checkpoint, the single track trail cleared out a bit.  I was able to ride most of the time at my own pace, probably faster than normal to “make up” some time.

As I was riding, my stomach was cramping something fierce.  Maybe my energy drink was a bit too strong.  I made it to last me all day, so maybe a big gulp was a bad idea.  I started pounding water from my Klim Nac Pac too flush the system.  It was not working!  Riding over rough terrain with stomach cramps and bloating was miserable.  I was feeling like crap and it was affecting my legs.  They felt dead and heavy with every pedal stroke.

Checkpoint two arrived none too soon.  I got off the bike and headed for the woods, kind of hoping I would throw up to clear my stomach.  Without any success losing my lunch and still in misery, I decided to go lay down for a minute.  Apparently, this was a popular thing to do on this warm May day, because I was just one of about ten people laying in the sun.

After 20 minutes I began to feel better, or at least my stomach was not so sour.  I was able to eat some fruit and a power bar.  Unfortunately, the damage had been done.  As I took off from checkpoint two, the trail was on a gradual incline.  Every pedal felt like I was trying to ride up Pike’s Peak.  I tried to slow down, but with only one gear it didn’t work.  I rode about a mile and decided to call it quits,  I made just 27 miles into the 50 mile Syllamo’s Revenge.  I had to come to the reality that this was not going to be my day.

Lesson learned: nutrition will be a big part of accomplishing my goal of finishing the DK200.  I had some work to do to understand what works for me to stay hydrated and fed while riding.  Check back next article to learn about my nutrition search and results.

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