The Ironman GNCC in Crawfordsville, Indiana marked my return to GNCC competition for the first time since the 2010 General GNCC in Washington, Georgia. With an invite to race a special Industry class in the Morning race and an offer to ride Barry Hawk’s WR450, there’s no way I could pass up the opportunity.
Having scoped out the track while working for the past two days, I felt good about what laid ahead of me, knowing that I was in for a fun race because the track was awesome. During the Mini race I tracked down the bike which was brought by the Stewarts (AJ Stewart of the XC2 class). They were kind enough to not only bring the bike but before riding it they also replaced the air filter for me but also fill it up with gas, so big props to them. I also had a request from Barry to get a new rear tire for it from Maxxis. I stopped by the Maxxis trailer and it seemed like as soon as the rear wheel was off the bike, the old tire was off, new tire was already on and ready to go. More props have to go out to Maxxis as well.
Our class was stacked with a few competitors including David Quillen (Steven Squire’s mechanic), Shawn Mundy (Morgan Moss’s mechanic), Mike Wendricks (MXWebsites.com), Steve Van Zuylen (Moose), Rodney Smith, Shane Nalley (Suzuki), Chris Wheeler (Suzuki), Andrew Fredrickson (Racer X), Jordan Roberts (Racer X), plus the team of us GNCC staffers, Hooper, Jen Kenyon and myself. Looking down the line I knew I was going to get smoked but I was happy to just ride and was ready to bring it on.
When the flag flew there was a pack of us heading full steam into the first turn. Rather than charging full on into the first turn with the likes of a few guys who are way faster than me, I backed it down a hair and settled for a top five start. I can’t be sure but I think I actually pulled a better start than Rodney Smith, which I’m going to call a win for me even if those Suzuki guys were all just out there play riding.
Having never started on the last row before and not being fast enough to lap a ton of people, I didn’t realize what it was like to have to work your way through nearly 500 riders. Although my speed is nowhere near competitive enough to vie for an overall position, I’m still confident enough in my skill set to say that I had to literally more than a hundred riders throughout the race. Within the first mile and a half I had passed more than a few riders and had eliminated any apprehensiveness I had about riding a 450 machine in a race for the first time.
About two miles into the course we reached a section where you had to ride under a bridge. This section was littered with hundreds of large drainage rocks. Not only on the first but on every single lap it seemed as if this section would create somewhat of a bottleneck of riders trying to take a single line to the right. Each lap I chose the left line and passed a minimum of three riders each time.
At some point, the overall leaders finally caught up with me. When the second overall rider caught me, it came at the perfect time as I used the opportunity to follow him for about a mile or so passing a freight train of slower riders. Being able to pick the lines that someone who actually gets to pass people takes was a pretty big advantage for me in the overall. In the time that I followed the second place rider, I was able to make the pass on at least a dozen riders. My guess is, they thought I was third overall, or the bike fooled them into thinking I was Barry Hawk. Either way, it worked and I felt really cool for this point of the race.
Somewhere around the second full lap I began feeling pretty tired and backed it down a bit. I was even cruising in the cornfield sections, riding around throwing fist pumps, doing a little goon riding and just generally not trying. After the race, Bill Allen gave me a new term to use for it after he called it “looking for the cattle”… Classic line.
Throughout the race of the race, I basically just rode my own pace and had fun. I never really pushed it too hard. When I came around and saw the white flag I had thoughts of quitting then in order to be prepared to work in the Afternoon. I told myself I would ride to the cornfield. Once I got there I decided to ride a little past it and pull off at a different spot I had in mind. Eventually I worked my way back around to the six mile mark. At this point I decided that if I had come halfway, I might as well finish.
Nearing the end of the final lap, LeeAnn Bange finally caught up with me. I wish she would’ve caught me sooner because I basically just rode behind her at a pretty fun pace for the final miles of the race. I say a fun pace but in all honesty, I was so beat that as soon as we hit an open section she seemed to check out on me and the whole 250 vs 450 thing made zero difference at that point.
I crossed the finish line with 7th place in the Industry class and somewhere in the high 200’s overall. Definitely nothing to be proud of and I’m almost embarrassed to post the results here, but hey, it could have been worse. My idiot moment of the day came when I realized I had no Camelbak and still rode the whole race without stopping for water. That proved to be a big mistake as I’m sitting here writing this two days later and I’ve still been feeling effects at times throughout the day.
So that wraps up my experience racing the 2011 Ironman GNCC. The track was a blast and I was pumped to get to race. Thanks again to Barry Hawk for letting me ride his bike and I didn’t crash it in a creek either…. Barry knows what I mean.