Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Ouachita Challenge Tour

Last weekend, I rode in the Ouachita Challenge Tour.  This ride is part of The Ouachita Challenge weekend.  On Saturday, they have a 60 mile tour and Sunday is the 60 mile race.  The route uses parts of the Womble Trail, Ouachita Trail, some gravel roads, and pavement.

I woke up around 3:30 on Saturday for the 2 hour drive out to start point at Oden, AR.  The drive out there started out adventurous.  When driving in the middle of nowhere at night, you have to keep your eyes out for deer in the middle of the road.  I saw more deer on the road down there then cars!

I got to Oden around 7:00.  I went and picked up my packet and found a couple of people that I knew. The race does offer a breakfast for free, but I ate along the way.  The one thing that a lot of people do is that they sleep in the High School gym.  I was told that it was part of the experience, hmm maybe next year.

After breakfast, I got everything ready and waited for the start!
Right at 8 it was go time!  We rolled out along some asphalt roads and then hit the gravel about a two miles into the ride.  The first 9 miles are asphalt and gravel.  You start the climb into Big Brushy along the gravel roads and at 9 mile mark you hit the single track.  The first part of Big Brushy is uphill and not that technical.  The second half however, is a combination of some small climbs, rocks, roots, and just about anything the ride can throw at you.  I'm not a very technical rider, so I ran into many spots where I had to get off the bike.  However, it was because people were already off in front me.  This helped take some of the pressure of because I didn't have to worry about being in someone's way.

Even though this a tour, you still have to make certain time cuts or you will be removed from the course.  The time cuts work to where if you just barely make one, you probably won't make the next one.  The first time cut was at Big Brushy aid station 15 miles.  You had to be there by 11:00 am.  I arrived to aid station filling pretty good about 9:50 am.  The race has a cut off of 10:30.  The aid stations were stocked with HEED, pickle juice, pickles, pb&j, and many other goodies.  The one concern of mine was cramping, so I decided to hit the shots of pickle juice and headed on my way.

From Big Brushy, you get back on some single track for about 2 miles which most of it is climbing.  You finally pop back out at the intersection of a gravel road or head towards Blowout Mountain.  Because I was riding the tour, we skipped Blowout and would go around on gravel roads before the next section.

The next section is Chleybate Mountain.  The only thing I knew about this section is that it goes uphill and when you think it's done it really gets steep.  The description was correct.  I was sure enough pushing my bike uphill for about 1/3 of this section.  Overall this section wasn't to difficult, but the climbing was tough!  Once you finish this section it's back on the road for about 10 miles heading towards the Womble Section.

At this point, I was just over 30 miles into in the ride in about 3.5 hours!  I was feeling good and ready for the next section.

The Womble starts off with some great flowing single track.  The trail is clear and flat in this section.  You can sit back and enjoy the ride.  I knew following this section was Mauldin Mountain.  I had not gotten much description of Mauldin but I was ready to tackle it.

This section is constant climbing!  You go up and when you think you can't go up anymore, you still go up!  The climbs were not that steep, but they were relentless.  You could get a short downhill, before finally going up again.  You finally get a longer downhill before hitting another aid station.  I was still feeling good here, but realized that it was still uphill!  This is the Gaston Mountain section.  I was feeling good for the first mile, but by the second mile frustration started to set in.  In the uphills, were getting to me and by the time I got to the downhills I was clearly ready to be off the trail!  We finally get to the last section where you ride on gravel roads for about a mile, get back on the Norfork Lake section of the trail and finally back to the last aid station.

The Norfork section was not very technical. It was smooth and flowy.  Once you back on the gravel, it is time to head to the finish, but before  you get there you are treated to one last climb!  I was ready for this climb.  I started slow and rode my way to the top.

I tried to smile for the camera at the top, but it appears that it didn't work out so well.  I could call that a combination of pain face with an attempt at a smile!  It was all smiles from the top.  It was downhill for a bit and then back on the roads and back to the school.

There is a short climb for the finish which is a nice touch to end the day!
I was glad to have crossed the line 7 hrs and 30 minutes.  I didn't get hurt, felt good throughout the race and had no major issues.  I really enjoyed this race!  The volunteers, the aid stations, and the feeling of the race was great.  It is no wonder that this race sells out in 12 minutes.

During the ride, I was thinking I wouldn't do this again next year, but now a week later I kind of want to do the race next year.  I would have to tackle Blowout Mountain and have stricter time cuts, but I feel I could be up for the challenge!

Below are some videos from Saturday and Sunday that give a feel for the race/tour!


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