Flying over Normandy on June 6 1944 American paratroopers watched and waited for the lights near the side doors of their planes to switch from red to green, signaling their time to jump into a life changing breach. “CURAHEE!!” they yelled as they dove into a dark sky thick with mortar fire and metal.
My mother’s Uncle was one of those troops. Forest “Goody” Guth volunteered to jump from a plane through fire and smoke into a country he had never seen before, but where he knew hostility awaited. He did so because he valued peace, loved his country, and frankly, was looking for a great adventure. He was a great man and the last of the volunteer 101st airborne until he passed away in 2009. The story goes that when Forrest jumped over Holland his chute didn’t fully deploy, he hurtled towards the earth, crash landing hard, knocked out cold, legs and back paralyzed. Medics came to his aid and after two days recovering in a cattle barn followed by a trip to an English field hospital and where upon his recovery Forrest was informed his injuries were enough to earn him a trip home. The Golden Ticket, apple pie, warm beds, and his loved ones.
Thing was, “Goody” Guth said “No.” “There was more work to be done, and I couldn’t leave my friends.” This attitude WAS my uncle Forrest. He was always positive, always smiling, with a glint of enthusiasm and a sparkle for the next project in his eyes. Forrest went from there off to the Battle of Bastogne. One of the bloodiest, coldest, and surely most miserable battles of the 2nd World War.
So when the chance came to do the thing I love in the place Forrest trained for his jumps into battle I jumped at the opportunity. I got a wiff in the fall that Kenny and the crew from Chainbusters racing were going to be putting on a gravel race around Mt Curahee where the 101st Airborne trained and prepared for their jumps. The place had such an impact on the soldiers that Curahee became their battle cry, what they shouted as they jumped into the unknown. If it had evoked such an attitude in them, surely itd be a great place to stoke the spring fire.
It was great to make an early morning start. I kind of missed that time to myself in the car driving to do what I love. I always love it when Emily and Pip can go with me but these solo journeys have a special place for me too. Through the NC highlands and down into the GA foothills the thick snow thinned, the sun came out, and the warmest temps Id felt in weeks (35d) felt amazing.
There was a great crowd, a smooth start, and a good group riding at the front. New friends were made, old ones around to welcome 2015 into racing reality, and mountains before us to climb. No moves were made until the short singletrack about 5 miles before Curahee. I had chosen to ride my Superfly Pro SL 1×11 because there was so much road or rolling fire road. I love singlespeed but if its going to be a spin-fest Ill sometimes opt for a geared bike. Geared riding is a great training tool to remind you to spin, keep your cadence smooth, and of course you can get more than a little extra speed along the way! “MTB Andy” and I got a little breathing room in the singletrack as the cross bikes struggled and the few remaining mountain bikes fought to match our kick up out of the valley. On to the fire road and this guy starts rolling back onto us. We kept from burning matches thinking we might need them coming up Curahee. I hadn’t ridden the course before but Andy had, so we chatted quickly about what the last miles were like. Up Curahee, back down, and then all fire road but a short section of bumpy double track before sending it speeding towards the finish with only one long climb to finish it off.
I was first to the top with only Chris really able to hang, holding his pace while I got a little leash on the climb. Im not sure if he could/would have chased since we were just going up and coming right back down. Curahee’s placement right in the middle of the race made it an unlikely crux. I wasn’t going to try and make a move with 15 miles left to solo home. But when Chris joined us just before the bumpy double track his cross rubber and gearing immediately forced him to slow. I wasn’t fully committed but stayed steady until he and Andy were just out of sight. The it was time to commit. I hit some gas, and stayed on it. Channeling the men who jumped throughout Europe. I wont say my solo effort for the win was anything compared to what they endured. Far from it. But it was fuel to keep me rolling.
Through the N.GA woods I kept my pace nice and high, only letting off at some of the turns to make sure I was still on the right path. A long ride and a long steep dirt to paved, to road climb and I could see the finishing straight. I hadnt burnt any matches but had kept a steady high pace all the way back. I didnt feel as good climbing as I do on my singlespeed but just like Forrest, I wasnt about to let up, there was work to be done.
Kenny and the Chainbusters crew put on incredibly good events. The Assault on Mt Curahee was no exception even though it was their first run through! A warm, exceptional meal and cold beer awaited us. As the embro warmed our legs and the camaraderie warmed our hearts It was time to grab the top prize and hit the road home. I hugely enjoyed the race, the new friendships forged on and off the race course, and am very glad to have a win going into the third Snake tt and the first 2015 NUE race at True Grit two weeks from Curahee.
Heres to being more like Forrest.