by Laura Campbell • June 28, 2019
It's almost July so most have forgotten about the House of Pain that Rasputitsa brought this year. In fact it was only yesterday that my hands thawed out enough to be able to type again so that's my excuse for this untimely race report. By now most cyclists in the Northeast know about this "Early Spring" (actually still winter) race that happens in the quaint little town of East Burke. There's lots of climbing over a 40ish mile route of gravel or mud or snow and anything in between. This year was my second year doing the race and my first ever DNF. To make matters more laughable, I drag my dear friend Kathy with me. "It will fun" I said. "It's great early season training" etc. Kathy's a good sport so she came with us and brought her husband.
I'm going to skip talking about the huge pre-party stuff here and get back to that later. The race has gotten so big that this year they offer the first 100 finishers of last years' race a different bib which allowed them start in the first wave about 10 minutes before the rest of the field. I was in the wave along with about maybe 5 other women.
You know when you start a race and the weather is horrible but you think, 'well I guess this will be one to remember' that is how Kathy and I thought about it at the start as the sky poured cold rain upon us. And naturally the start is a long decent down the Burke Mtn. Access road. It doesn't start climbing out of that for a few miles. So I was wet and already very cold. I knew I would get dropped and be alone until the other wave started to catch up. I actually started to slow down so I could wait for Kathy's wave and I got cold. Very cold. A big mistake was thinking that I would be too hot with many layers because of all the climbing. Last years' weather was great...
A bigger mistake was not having completely water proof scuba gloves or something like that. About 17 miles in and my hands were in so much pain, I couldn't shift well any longer. The rain turned to snow. And then my glasses fell out of my pocket. The snow was blinding so I had to slow down even more. Kathy and I stopped to eat something and I looked over and she was equally miserable. Our 'this is going to be very funny' had turn into 'this is a sadistic nightmare.' I think that was at the point where we split. I couldn't go fast on the decent because I couldn't see it was snowing so hard. I'm glad Kathy kept riding. My hands were so swollen that I actually started to think I was going to need to stop at someone's house along the route because I was truly getting frostbite. As luck would have it I turned the corner to see the 30 mile rest station. They had plenty of cold wine and cheese... and about 20 shaking cyclists that were hypothermic. I stopped and had to have a woman pull the gloves off my hands they were so swollen, and honestly bless her because she let me put them in her armpits. Finally, I crammed into a car with 2 guys who were shaking so violently the truck was moving back and forth. I felt like I was going to throw up I was so cold. Two women I had raced cx with before got in and started to cry, white lipped, serious hypothermia. This is it I thought, I don't care. I did care, I had never DNF'd before but man, this just wasn't worth it. It was a tough call but a very gracious family offered me a ride back and I was incredibly grateful for it. Kathy finished because she's a beast and has better gloves than me.
Overall, I left with a feeling that I made bad equipment choices but then again, I'm not sure any equipment would have kept me dry or warm enough. It seemed crazy that so much time was spent on pre-party stuff and randomly stocked raced stations (cheese, wine, shots) but nothing that was hot (propane heaters, towels, hand warmers, hot water etc). I'm not sure if I'll go back again. I guess if there was a first race to DNF this was a good one to do it at. My hands didn't work well the next fews days after the race. Achy fingernails feel weird! But, I'm happy to report as of today June 30, 2019, I have full feeling back in all 9 fingers.
Laura Campbell, Tall Sock Racing Presented by Bikeman.com