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Fool’s Gold 60 miler - Ellijay, GA

Team Bikeman - Race Reports

Fool’s Gold, one of the longest standing endurance races in GA, once again capped off the NUE series. This year it sported a new course and thankfully, amazing weather – for Summer in GA anyway! I had not done this race in a few years but with all the training and racing I’ve been doing I figured I’d give it a go.

The new venue, Anderson Creek Retreat, was amazing. Peaceful. A.K.A the middle of nowhere. But that was the beauty of it. You really did feel like you arrived somewhere special.

Bright and early we all gathered for the 7:45am start. The 90milers took off 30 minutes earlier. Pretty fun to line up with the likes of road pro Phillip O’Donnell and mtn bike pro Thomas Turner, even if I would only ride with them about 5 miles during the neutral lead out.

We rolled in moist 65F, 250 racers strong! I positioned myself in the top 20 to keep safe and be able to more quickly react to moves. I never looked back but that pack must have gone on forever.

We reached the first climb, Nimblewill Gap. Lead car pulls over, and off we go. All the early race jitters are gone and everyone’s legs feel spunky. I get into my rhythm but begin to fall back in the pack. That is OK though. I know my race pace. The climb, about 4 miles long, eventually reminds many folks that the race is not won in the first 30 minutes. I begin picking off some of the guys who’s legs are now smoking. :-) Been there, done that.

Cresting Nimblewill we took a right turn into the descent to find a wall of fog! Hmmm descending a mtn I’ve never seen compounded very limited visibility. Oh well, gotta get down. I started descending and soon after got passed by a guy who apparently knew the dirt road descent well. I locked on his wheel and thankfully made it down fast and safe. Picked up a couple others at the bottom and we worked together, pace lining ourselves for a few miles and into the singletrack around Jake Mtn. Probably some of the most fun singletrack I’ve been on in a while. Climbs rewarded you with amazing flowy trails. I could hear guys behind me yelling in ecstasy from the amazing ride we were on. But, at some point you have to pay the piper.

That's when we reached the Bull Mtn climb, known for funneling you – upwards – eventually into a narrow, rooty, steep 1 mile section that makes you want to quit. Seems never ending. I keep my distance from wheels, trying to prevent getting stopped by others losing their footing/line on the steep technical trail. After what seemed to be hours, we finally crested. It takes a mile or so before I get back into a good rhythm lowering my HR and the sting in my legs.

Descending Bull mtn is no picnic either. Super fast, and in many cases, fairly technical areas that keep your upper body working hard and your mind even harder. There was no chance for relaxation if you wanted to go fast. One of those downhills that can be amazing if you are focused and very dangerous if you’re not.

Once again, this time leading two silent racer compatriots, we made it down in good time and headed to the final climb, back up Nimblewill.

The way back on Nimblewill is a little more shallow of a climb but a lot longer, 7 miles or so in total. Knowing this was the final climb it was all about emptying the tank. Even with a few “rolling miles” left afterwards I knew I could put it all out there. I was excited to catch a few folks but unfortunately none in my category. But, it kept me motivated.

I crested Nimblewill that last time, calling out to the aid station volunteers for some Coke. I downed a couple cups of the miracle juice :-) and off I went, already able to smell the barn.

Those last few miles, as always, feel like the longest ones. Legs are tired, you are trying to pick up a spot or two, you don’t want to get chased down, and you just want to be done! So what does the organizer do? They throw in a ½ mi grass climb to the finish line. Ugh.

I grind my way up it and finally spot the finishing line. Crawling my way past the line I hear a few cheers. Enough to remind me that it is over!

The pain quickly subsided and becomes a feeling of joy and relief. I think to myself  "that was a really fun race" if that is possible after 4:50 of racing.

All in all I had a great race. Legs felt good, no mishaps, no mechanicals. Trails were amazing and the weather was even better. I managed to pull out a win in the 40-49 category and finished 15th overall in a 250 racer field. What is there to complain about?! ;)

I still have a couple of races left this season but this big race makes me look forward to those even more. Though I’d be just fine if the season ended on this note. I’m so glad I do this stuff. Makes all those long office-rat days worth it.

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