Blam! Pete Rock blastin’ the road gap near the finish of the Graham Swamp 360 six hour endurance race.
Me and Other Me… the internal debate about not being a lazy sod. So a bit more than a few weeks ago, my good buddy & Florida MTB legend, Pete Rose, leaves a rather innocuous voice message to the tune of “Hey man, are you doin’ the 6hr MTB race at Graham Swamp?”
I had recently finished my silly cyclocross season and was not at all interested in putting in the effort to be remotely competitive against the insanely skilled coastal crusher crew of Flagler Beach. I was, however, completely interested in Dorito shell tacos and Netflix. They were all calling my name after four months of gnarly old men in tights riding circles around a field on skinny tired bikes.
So after Pete the Persistant put the idea in my head, it continued to loiter around the cerebral parking lot looking all shifty and stuff….. further fueled by more leading, rather specific, messages.
For these kind of of events, I usually default riding solo so I can just zone out, mindlessly pedal and get lost in the hypoxic hedonism. Team stuff is weird.
I always got the checkmark in grade school for “does not play well with others”, must be an excess of Neanderthal DNA, I worry about letting someone down by crashing out, flatting out or something equally undramatic.
Nine days later I went for it.
Firstly, dawn patrol scouting missions were planned to help this old man learn the local lines. The rather neglected, dirt oriented velocity vessel underwent a complete overhaul…(pump up tires and de-seizurize the seized chain. Done.)
I got the creeper van all sorted, started shotgunning gallons of beet juice and tried to dump some comfort food weight that had “accidently” accumulated.
We spent a day walking the trail, dissecting each section down to root and sand trajectories. Passing zones were scouted and everything was repeatedly rode and re-rode to cement familiarity. You know,…. completely overthink everything, that’s how we do.
We also ordered up matchy matchy rad plaid lad kits from Club Ride to stay above the sausage smuggling spandex sea that engulfs any bike event here in the armpit of Florida. Like the homepage of this site, I know, I know.
I always say Graham Swamp is one of the toughest trails in Central Florida. It has way more elevation, gnarly, sharp coquina boulders, slick, off camber roots, huge rusty dragline cables and giant seashells (in a forest, weird!) than one would think. This beautiful beachside beast is truly a buried treasure minutes away from the tourist mecca of Saint Augustine.
Sunshine, seashells and palm trees. The front stretch of Graham Swamp is a six block soul-searching, cardio-pulmonary collapse dragstrip
Bodacious boulder balancing through the overly dramatic named Dragon’s Back section…. dropping a front wheel through this is probably not the best idea
When you’re waiting for the old fart to get out of the way.
Conquistadores of the Shuck and Jive. Regular hurricane induced landscape modifications are always evident throughout Florida.
race day cometh...
Final over-analysis of things that don’t really mean diddly squat. Spare tools in the Serfas seat satchel, pump lashed to frame, and backup plans. Triple check everything pressurized. Skinwall bonus points trying to offset the racer nerd drop stem and mile high seat. JC’s Bike Shop got everything dialed in perfect.
This is the gravel bobsled chute that Pete may have disrespected at some point because it proceeded to take some flesh in return. That bottom turn is a bugger.
Team racers exchanged a bracelet to launch the next rider into full sprint burn in 90° weather. The lap gap was tight, the weather scorchin’, as riders come ragin’ into the corral full tilt boogie, scramble to a dusty stop and shove the next one out.
“I say buzz buzz buzz ..” obnoxious knobby droning on the trainer while Pete went to work knockin’ out the fast laps.
I still think that it’s easier to do these events nonstop solo, with just 35ish minutes between laps to eat, drink and trying to not cramp into a writhing monkey fist…. staying loose and fueled were the biggest challenges.
Matchey matchey midday leg trauma completes the look.
One of the many things I love about Florida mtb and ‘cross racing is the consistant camaraderie. No pretentious chest puffing or abrasive attitudes, just hangin’ out with darn cool folks who happen to kick ass on bikes. SC Legend Jamie Babcock (far left) and Sean Walker, darn cool cats indeed, not even remotely phased about turning some of the fastest times of the day.
Mega thanks to VR Photo for spending her weekend out there wading through ticks, snakes and poison ivy rather than relaxing on the beach.
Also much respect to Triumph Events for super smooth race organization, despite complete computer meltdown (sunspots), the ol’ pen/paper/stopwatch/ yelling and plenty of arm waiving did the trick.
Oh, and hey, we gotta rock.
So yeah, if you find yourself down by the shore near St. Augustine or Flagler, treat yourself to some darn good trail time at Graham Swamp. One of Florida’s hidden treasures, it will kick your ass and you’ll love every minute of it.
All photos: VR photo