Team Skink takes on Wausau24
There's something about getting hit by a bat that is somehow ... disturbing.
And I'll admit, I screamed like a little girl.
I was out on the 3 a.m. lap, and as my light bored a hole through the dust and the darkness, I could see bugs illuminated in the air in front of me. But not just bugs -- bats, the winged creatures of the night darting in and out of the beam looking for their next meal. I've experienced this before -- it's a common occurence in Pisgah -- but this time was different ... as I painfully made my way up the backside of the course, one of them got too close, and the next thing I knew it was flopping against my chest, then against my leg ...
And I screamed.
It was all I could to to keep riding, supressing a shudder and trying not to fall over in a fit of fear. Thankfully just then I crested the hill and began a long fire-road descent, giving me enough momentum and enough of a break to take a deep breath and keep on pedaling.
But ugh, that was just ... disturbing.
This year's Wausau24 was a far cry from last year, when a midsummer rainstorm halted the race for several hours before dinnertime. Instead, in 2012 it was all about the dust -- the drought that has enveloped much of the country has not spared central Wisconsin, and in some places the trails were rim-deep with a loose layer of dirt. With a crew including my wonderful wife, Kim, our two kids, my dad and a family friend, I dove right in, tackling the roots and rocks in picture-perfect weather.
Unlike in previous 24s, I approached this race with the goal to be even -- I started out steady, and held the pace for quite a while. I've always gone out too hot, and paid for it; this time, by nightfall, I was in a solid second place and not far behind first. We kept up the rhythm after lights on, slowing a bit but not losing ground, and all was well ... until I ran into the bat.
For certain, the bat was not the reason for my doldrums. By the time that happened, first place was putting time into me, and Chris Schotz rode an incredible race. (In the first lap, he was jamming out of the saddle from the gun, and I wondered aloud if he could hold it ... he did!). For the most part, I held it together, but as dawn cracked, so did I just a bit -- and I had to admit that I wouldn't be able to catch Chris. We would go on to lap the field twice, and by the end he was three-quarters of a lap up for the win.
Still, it was a fantastic event, and Muddy Paws Racing always puts on a good show. I'm stoked on my second place, for the second year in a row, and look forward to getting back out there again next year ... hopefully the bats stay home.