Monday, June 23, 2014

Hilly Billy Mud Bath -- 72 miles of it!

(Photo credit to Mike Briggs and Fred Jordan -- thanks for braving the weather to take our pictures, much appreciated!)

Hilly Billy Roubaix is a 72 mile ultra-cross race on graveled, dirt-filled, pot-holed, mud-bubbling, swampy "roads" with a shit ton of climbing that just keeps on coming! Last year I had to DNF after my crank broke before the first aid station so I had a score to settle.

Luckily we didn't have the 103 degree weather with 99% humidity like last year, but instead we had rain, rain, and then some more rain. Much of it fell on days prior to the race, but we had a drenching shower just before the start and some periods of rain throughout the race.

All this water had to go somewhere and combine water with gravel and dirt and it turns into mud -- who knew! So we had to race through this for many of the 72 miles:      
Its not so bad... till you realize the water is waist deep!
Mud treatment, anyone?

Car sized mud holes
 I was on my cross bike with canti brakes so knew this would be an adventure. Tyler Chapman, a teammate at Bike Rack Racing, was on his mountain bike with disc brakes and I was quite envious. But enough with the whining -- time to HTFU and race with what you got!

The race started off fast and I was with the front part of the peloton for a bit till we got strung out on the first gravely climb. I had a power meter on the cross bike and realized that I was deep in my anaerobic zone trying to keep up with the elite guys so eased off and got into a chasing group. Soon we hit the first of many mud sections and the guys on mountain bikes just tore up the course while I perfected my controlled slides. Soon I started following a couple guys in front who were taking different lines so I just picked the one that looked the best. 
I wish I had this guy's fat bike!

Keeping it together... barely
There was a brief respite on the road but soon we were back on dirt/gravel/mud and the climbing just kept on coming. My legs felt good and I was in good rhythm by this point but my bike started to make weird noises when I was in the 34-28 gear (my lowest available). Turns out my B-screw was just screwed up and the derailleur pulley was rubbing up against the 28 cog. Not that I could do much about it since I needed that gear on the climbs so I just hoped for the best.

The middle part of the race is a bit of blur but what I do remember is that the bit of rain on one of the road sections was quite welcome as it washed off some of the mud from my bike. My derailleur, however, was increasingly unhappy and finally my luck ran out after aid 3 just before a big hill. I downshifted to my lowest gear, got out of the saddle to hammer up but the quick link caught on the pulley and tore the chain in half. Luckily the rest of the parts were ok and after an agonizingly long quick link replacement (no dexterity left!) I was back on the bike and on the climb.

Turns out the stop didn't do me any good as my legs started cramping within seconds and I had to really nurse them up the hill. That was painful. 

Deep in the pain cave
  By this point my bike was in complete revolt as now the front shifting stopped working... so I just said f*** it and kept it in the small ring even on the descents. But I still needed my lowest gear to get over the final grassy mud pit followed by a super steep road section up to the finish.
Almost done
 I finished well under 6 hours (5:44, good for mid-pack finish) which isn't a super time but I'll take it and aim to break it next year. Tyler did really well, as did other teammates like Beth Durman who persevered and finished despite having a tough day. Likewise, Team Sticky Fingers reps Shauna Sweet and Erin Conner had great races even though Erin took a nasty spill and had to DNF (right decision, Erin!). Mark Cavey of CrossHairs finished with Shauna, both on single speeds!

This was such an epic race. Back next year for more!

Tyler and me at the finish. Muddy as heck but happy to be done

And finally, a parting moment of zen:

Smooch anyone? Yes, that's a pig on a leash!


  1. Great ride! This event sounds ridiculous.

  2. Congratulations on your ride! Thoroughly enjoying reading through everyone's reports of this event!