I could barely walk after this event....
I've been wanting to do the Skyway Epic because it looked really hard, I've got a place to stay near the start and I need to ride my mountain bike more. BamaCross puts this event on and its got a great mix of that grassroots feel, yet well run from a small team vibe. This event took place on Sunday 5/18/2014.
Before the fun began, near the start/finish:
(Behind me was a lake with several confused fisherman wondering why we were playing music so loud and riding around in our "underwear" at 7am.)
The race is an out and back format, 10mi of singletrack, 42mi of "gravel", and 5mi of singletrack. Totaling 57.6mi and 5461k ft. Three races at the Skyway Epic this year:
Best time overall (classes)
Poker, collect a joker playing card from each of the aid stations on your way out turning them in at the turnaround. First one there with all the cards wins. Also, there was a KOM / QOM(?) price at the top of the climb, 100 bucks!
I hadn't heard any beta prior to this ride other than stalking some Strava rides from last year. I figured this ride would be a lot like Southern Cross, it was, but way more taxing on the body...mountain biking. I was shooting for an 11mph avg / 5 hour finish time.
The first 10 miles of singletrack was faaast, and felt like I was on a road ride ripping through the forest. My group had about 15 riders riding wheel to wheel at a fast race pace. Flowy singletrack was a lot of fun, and it was over too soon. Next up was gravel roads and 4 wheeler trails, some no more than a roughly cut path through some brush. At this point I was feeling some pain in both my feet, some pain I've felt before but has always gone away after a few miles. More on that later.
Some of that easy gravel in between the single track and skyway trail.
The Skyway trail is a Jeep trail, code for rocky and rutty, it was hard. The beginning is a Category 2 climb according to strava: Bull Gap. I didn't expect this trail to be that hard but it was pretty tough because of how washed out and unpredictable it was.
You couldn't really get any solid speed on the downhills because the ruts were filled with basketball sized rocks making you pick your line carefully. However, I did manage a couple 40mph downhill runs. I got a little carried away on one section and ended up hitting some ruts perpendicular, at that point I thought my bike was going to explode, but made it out thinking brake sooner next time. I came across a guy who'd gone down in one of these sections, bloody arms and face, he was OK just shaken a good bit. Not that tricky, again it's just a poorly maintained trail, but you get carried away thinking it's just a gravel road...it's not.
At the turn around I was feeling pretty crappy but I got my zip tie and felt way better to know it was mostly downhill from here. I was on track to beat 5 hours, so off I went. The way back was lonely. The dude that had wrecked motored past me on the gravel roads near the ending single track, total animal this guy. My foot pain had crept back and I was starting to cramp. I cramped a little by the ending singletrack, ran over a few snakes and was so damn happy to finish. I was toast. I cruised in at 4 hours and 49 minutes, 12mph avg and 25th place of 70ish. Pretty happy with that. Here's my strava file: Skyway Epic
At the car, I got off the bike and pain shot into both my feet, pain so bad I had a hard time walking. I hobbled over to get some food and went back to my car to eat. I drive a manual and couldn't push the clutch in without a crazy amount of pain. Luckily I had brought an ice pack and a bunch of Advil. I waited about an hour sitting in my car with my feet on the ice pack and Advil in my system. That helped a ton and I was able to drive outta there...Turns out my shoes are too small for my feet and they are irritating/compressing the outer bone of my feet. Something to fix before ORAMM!