2008 Ouachita Challenge - Mustaches, Mud, and Mayhem
Greetings Loyal Team Seagal Fan! A weekend like this only comes around once in a while. So when the opportunity presents itself to ride all day on some of the most epic trail systems in the country, with your best riding buds, in the best weather imaginable, you grab the neck of that opportunity and crush its trachea.
Amidst a flurry of concerns regarding trail conditions, ridiculous facial hair, energy drinks, Tijuana Mama, potent intestinal gases, delicious Pabst, dryer sheets in the pants, Charles Bronson quotes, Chinese herbs, and pain, we did manage to snap the wrists of all that laid before us. No one was safe, not even the guy on the makeshift recumbent:
7 newly-mustached soldiers did indeed journey down to Oden, Arkansas in search of glory. Yours truly - Casey Ryback (now Coach Ryback), Gino Felino (now Chico Felino), Dr. Wesley McLaren (now an Arkansas Native), Shop Minister (now an Old Timey Grifter), Nico Toscani (now Officer Toscani), Lt. Col. Austin Travis (Village Person #4), and Marshall Lawson (still Marshall Lawson due to lack of ability to grow significant facial hair, and also under DRJ disguise) all emerged victorious for good and bad reasons.
Dr. McLaren, Lt. Col. Travis, and Nico all went down on friday night with plans to get in a little bit of non-strenuous pre-riding on Saturday, and then be ready to snap wrists all day on Sunday during the race. The power of the 'stache made its presence known quite early, at the hotel on Friday night. Whilst enjoying a quiet and relaxing hot tub soak, our 3 quick-thinking soldiers made the decision to not stick around once the pool and hot-tub area became invaded by some, shall we say, "young" girls. It is a widely known fact that mustaches and young girls do not mix well, and it is best that we don't find that out for ourselves. All parties escaped safely, and were met up with the next day by Gino, Casey, Marshall, and Shop Minister.
After signing in, asking the Tour guys about trail conditions, and a eating delicious calorie-laden spaghetti meal at the Oden School, the Team retired to the rental cabin for the night to work on bikes:
eat homemade smoothies:
...and watch Charles Bronson movies to put us in the kick-ass mood.
We awoke early Sunday morning to the sound of Avril Lavigne's song about your girlfriend. (Thanks, Marshall.) Before we knew it, we had eaten a lot more food, got the bikes loaded, dropped some major pre-race bombs, got to the start/finish line, forgot shoes, went back to the cabin to get them and then back to the start line, ready to go by 8. Spirits were high at the line, and so were the temperatures. Everyone was poised making small talk, eye-ing each other's meticulously prepared bikes, trying to psyche each other out, going over everything in their mind (did I remember the spare chain-links/patches/zip ties/multi-tool/front wheel?) and trying to come to grips with the fact that there was no more prep possible. All we could do at that point was wait for the roll-out!
There haven't been any races yet with this many Seagal Soldiers on the line - we actually looked like a real team, and even felt like one on the first fire-road climb before the singletrack started. If you can pedal the hill, a singlespeeder will almost always ascend faster than a geared bike - this was evident on that first climb as we all bobbed and weaved around everyone in their granny gears. Farther up the first climb but well into the singletrack was the location of the first rider to be passed puking on the trailside. Poor bastard - didn't even make it 20 minutes!
The Sunday race course had us riding the Womble Trail first, and then the Ouachita Trail. This was a great way to ride this course, as we were totally fresh for this amazingly flowy trail. The descent off of the Womble trail is truly memorable. The mountain bike orientation really shows with the gradual climbs, excellent drainage, and smooth transitions. The bottom of this trail is where we got out first taste of slop. This year has been a wet one for everyone, and the rivers, creeks, and mud-puddles were definitely up to the hubs fairly often. Want to know why it is a good thing to get mud splattered onto your teeth? It means you are smiling when riding - and there was plenty of mud on our teeth by the time we hit the first aid station.
At this point, Shop Minister, Gino, Lt. Col, and Nico had put a healthy gap on Coach Ryback and The Good Doctor. They kept the pace high and rode as a group for a good percentage of the miles, spearheading the assault. Coach Ryback settled into a steady pace of annihilation behind Marshall Lawson (who was just a hair behind the first group) with The Good Doctor finishing off any survivors who made it past the first two waves of destruction.
Mini Steven was all smiles through the muck:
Blowout Mountain should be re-named to "Soul-Crusher" or "T'aint Destroyer" or something along those lines. The ascent up this beast was not kind to anyone's legs, and the descent off of its peak was not kind to anyone's wrists. Those rock gardens were a veritable playground for those with the chops to keep the pedals moving over basketball-sized rocks, often covered in mud-water. Much walking was to be had, and those that pedaled up in granny gear didn't really go any faster than those on foot.
The combination of Blowout and Big Brushy is a one-two punch the likes of which can only be withstood by those who have Superior Attitude and Superior State of Mind.
The final ~10 miles of fire-road and pavement went by in a blur of pain and victory! By now, our Team Seagal peloton had stretched out a slightly, which meant that our finishing order was Shop Minister, Lt. Col Austin Travis, Nico Toscani, Marshall Lawson, Gino Felino, Coach Ryback, and Dr. Wesley McLaren. Official results have yet to be posted, but we do know that Shop Minister showed off his bread and butter by Getting Awesome all the way into 4th place in the Singlespeed class with a time of just under 5:20hrs, about 6 minutes from 3rd. That means that Lt. Col took 5th, Nico took 6th, Marshall Lawson took 36th overall (5:35 hrs), Gino took 8th in SS, Coach Ryback squeezed in just under the 6 hour mark at about 5:54, and The Good Doctor with a time of 6:23.
We're also happy to report that 1st and 2nd place in the SS class, for Team Seagal were Matt Keeven and Carey Edwards. (*Team results and affiliations becoming retro-active once joining our team.) There were unconfirmed reports of the Trek Factory riders (with gears and suspension) having the major hurt put on them by one Matt Keeven. We're just sayin', is all.
Despite being 6 or 7 miles shorter this year due to flooding, our times were much faster than last year, by a margin greater than the time it would take to ride those 6 or 7 miles. Coach Ryback had his time drop by nearly 1.5 hours.
Our Kona's all worked beautifully, despite looking like a sewer afterwards:
Here Nico points out the major casualty of our opponents:
Overall, we had an extremely successful trip and race, in spite of many seemingly insurmountable equipment related setbacks for Marshall. Considering he was riding on a fork and drivetrain that were 1 day old, it worked amazingly well with only one snafu on the trail. We also gained much wisdom on this trip, which we hope to someday instill in our offspring with statements like this:
"Son, as you get older and go forward in life, remember: Truckers love porn."
Stay tuned for Mustache Mania, and official
-Coach Casey Ryback
*EDIT* Photos posted!
*EDIT* RESULTS POSTED - We did pretty damned well!