This is not a race.  I repeat.....this is not a race.  It is a loosely organized group ride.  With people who race.  Guess what?  That makes it a race.

I really wanted to do this ride last year but we had a conflict.  This time of year in the South the weather can be pretty unpredictable.  The 2013 version of the Tuff Guy was pretty miserable from all accounts and included some snow.  This year, however, the weather was absolutely perfect.

After work on Friday I packed up and headed up to Oxford.  There were about a half a dozen guys from the Racing Revolution team heading up for the ride so I just went straight to Proud Larry's to kick it with the guys and have some dinner.  Even though Wendi and I had eaten redfish for lunch that day I couldn't help ordering the special which was blackened redfish served over greens and sweet potatoes along with a Yalobusha IPA.  After dinner we stopped at a local craft beer store to grab some beer and headed back to Brad's condo in town.  Initially I was planning on tent camping at Clear Creek until Brad offered I stay at his place.  It was nice to have a warm place to sleep rather than outside.  I stayed up for a bit shooting the shit with the guys and drank a few beers then got some shut eye.

I slept awesome and was very thankful that Polk didn't snore.  Woke up around 6 and had my normal pre-ride breakfast of oatmeal and yogurt while the rest of the guys ate a hearty breakfast of biscuits, gravy and eggs.  It smelled awesome but there is no way I could stomach it before a 5 hour ride.

Mixed up my bottles for the race a little different than Southern Cross last weekend.  Listening to Kelli Jennings in the past week she recommends trying to get 70-90 grams of carbs per hour for extended efforts.  Previously I was only mixing two scoops of Tailwind per bottle (one per hour) which comes to 50 grams of carbs and around 600mg of sodium.  I didn't have any major cramping at SCX but the weather was also pretty cool so perspiration was minimal.  For Tuff Guy I mixed three scoops of Tailwind per bottle which came out to 75 grams of carbs (300cal) and 900mg sodium.  For both SCX and Tuff Guy I was using their new caffeinated version.  Water was to be provided at the Taylor trailhead so I just packed up ziplocks of reloads to carry in my jersey pocket.

This is the first big ride where I have been back on my Niner Air9 RDO after tearing it down and building it back up after last season.  I moved to a XX1 drive train and got a set of Roval carbon wheels.  I also cut my 710 bars down to 680 as I just felt like they were way too wide.  Since so much of this ride was on the road I started the ride with 45psi front and back to cut down on rolling resistance.

"Registration" for the ride really just consisted of writing your name, phone number and emergency contact on a spiral notebook.  The ride itself consistent of riding about 17 miles into the Taylor trails in Oxford, riding a lap at Taylor, riding the road back to Clear Creek then doing a race loop.  About 5 minutes before the 9am start time people started congregating around the start line.  The race organizer Brad Cannon gave a quick little pre-ride briefing and we were off.  Everyone started off rolling really slow in a tight bunch.  Ogletree and I got a little tired of the yo-yoing so we broke out with a few others in a little group to set a good pace.  After riding about 50 minutes on the road we got to Taylor and I dropped my pressure down to about 30psi to ride the trails.

I have never ridden this trail before and I really liked the first 10 miles.  Not a lot of flow and tons of switchback goodness.  I underestimated how much time I would be on this trail and ran out of nutrition with about 5 miles left.  Little did I know the trail got even more choppy in those last few miles.  Finally the fire road that ran back up to the trailhead.  Refilled both of my bottles, downed a coconut water, peed on a tree and chatted with John Woods for a bit while I waited for some teammates.  Once we regrouped we hit the road back to Clear Creek.  We got a little lost going through town but eventually found the long road back.  I stayed with the group for a while and slowly pulled away completing a majority of the 17 miles on my own.  I took this time to catch up on nutrition and get good and hydrated.  It was nice to spin on the road with XX1 and know the gearing wasn't too short for road stretches.

Back at Clear Creek I refilled bottles, slammed a RedBull and got right onto the trails.  I've only ridden this trail once before but immediately remembered how much fun it is.  My legs felt great and my head was pretty clear.  There were a couple of turns that weren't marked for the course but I ended up finishing in 5:27:55 just under my 5:30 goal.  Moving time was 4:55:25 so I could have easily cut a lot of time if I did less socializing at the aid stations and stops.  But remember....this was not a race.

I downed a chocolate milk right after getting off the bike and changed out of spandex.  Post ride food was awesome consisting of pork tacos, black beans and rice.  I stuck around till all of the team rolled across the line and then headed back to Jackson.  This was definitely a tough ride but it was a cake walk compared to SCX the week before.  I'm really starting to feel that this pre-season training and big rides are going to pay off for the XC season.  It was good to get some miles in on the Niner before the season opener in Meridian in a few weeks.  The only thing I would have changed on the bike for a long format ride like today would
be the saddle.  The Tundra2 I have on my CX bike is much more comfortable that the Selle Italia SLR TT I have on the XC bike.

Ride on.

Click here to see my Strava activity for this ride.