Pre-riding in Oak Mountain

And staying on the trail this time! I picked up Honey Stinger athlete Pat V from the airport on Friday and we headed down to the park to pre-ride the course and maybe check out the new run course. This was Pat's first time in Alabama and he was looking forward to riding. I just wanted to put in a clean ride and stay upright! After picking up packets and saying hello to the Xterra gang, it was time to hit the trails. I really love the trails here at Oak Mountain - not quite as twisty as the Waco course, but plenty of sweeping corners and challenging rock gardens. And exposed bridges as I found out on Thursday! The course is easily divided into a few sections - the first one a rolling section filled with roots and rocks, then second offering more gradual climbing with bridges and rock gardens, then the long double track climb up to Blood Rock. After the climb, it's the descent over Blood Rock and back down to lake level, and finally another rolling and twisty segment leading back to the transition area.

Patrick was soon lost in the woods, a few corners ahead of me on the trail. And judging from the photos, he was having fun. I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike and the trail. One of the harder things for me about the Alabama course is all the roots, especially coming out of the corners. I want to ride the berm out of the corner to maintain my speed, but there's a pile of roots right on the fastest line! So a little adjustment is needed. And the rock gardens, while the rocks are smaller compared to some of the ones at home, are filled with sharp rocks and don't have an easy line. And they are long, so there is a plenty of body english required to get through and maintain speed. It's also easy in those first few sections to push hard. But then comes the double track climb - and if you've pushed too hard early, that climb is draining and mental taxing. It's also long, a steady grind up to Blood Rock. This where things get interesting as the "easy" double track is abandoned and we take a turn for the downhill. Patrick missed the entry into Blood Rock on his first attempt and decided to scout it out. I took a few rides down, trying to memorize my line so come Sunday I didn't have to think about it. Then the screaming down hill back to the lake level. I actually think this part is harder then Blood Rock! It's loose, fast and there are a few rock ramp kickers. There's also no really good line through the maelstrom of rocks. But it's over pretty quickly and the trail returns to the normal rooty and twisty hard packed single track. There are a few climbs, but the trail is mostly rolling and really fun from that point on. Last year, they had just finished this section of trail and it was still bumpy and hard. This year, with another year of people riding, it was cut in and smooth. And lots of fun. Looking forward to the race - it's always a good time here in Alabama!

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