Thursday, May 2, 2024

Croatan Buck Fifty

 If you like gravel and live in the Southeastern US and haven't heard of or participated in the Croatan Buck Fifty, you have been slacking! I first heard of the race while scrolling through Instagram in the summer of 2018. I was riding my fixed gear to commute to work and back daily as well as just bombing around town. So my fitness level was pretty high at that time. I figured since the race takes place in the Croatan National Forest in Eastern North Carolina and is mostly flat I would crush it. The main event and namesake is a 150 mile race through the forest on gravel roads. But they have other options as well, like 100 and 50 miles. I signed up for the 50 and started "training". My training consisted mostly of commuting and bar hopping for what its worth. 

They did not have a fixed gear division so I just signed up for the single speed division. But I rode the race on a fixed gear. This proved a wise choice. I had so much fun bombing down the forest roads and passing the other racers. A lot of folks were dreading the section colloquially known as "Savage Road". This section was no joke. There was a lot of puddles, and you would be wise to avoid them as some were quite deep. You really had to choose a good dry line and inevitably that line would crisscross from left to right and back again. I got stuck in some traffic as the good lines were often only wide enough for a single rider. There was a fellow racer who thought he could bypass the traffic by taking a "wetter" line. That guy literally was swallowed by what I can only assume was an eight foot deep mud puddle. 

I ended up 4th out of the five 50 mile single speed finishers. Back in 2019, the race was smaller than it is now days. It also had a more laid back atmosphere, at least to me it did. Its still not very pretentious or anything and everyone I encountered was super cool. But I mean they did have free beer from Crank Arm Brewing out of Raleigh back then and I don't think I've seen that since.

2020 and 2021 saw the race interrupted due to the Covid nonsense. But by 2022 we were back in action. Class of 2022 we saw the fifty single speed swell to 7 brave competitors. I ran a lower gear, still fixed gear. The lower gear was great in the cornfield and other tough spots, but I felt really limited on many stretches of smooth gravel. But the weather was really nice and of course the race organizers did a hell of a job setting things up as we have come to expect. I ended up placing 6th out of the 7 of us. 

In 2023 the fifty single speed had grown to 14 beastly competitors. I *think* this was also the first year they had a staggered start. There were more people here for the race than I had seen before. This is great for the race organizers, the competitors, and the local economy. This year I changed things up a bit and actually ran a freewheel single speed. It was higher geared than 2022 which was helpful. I ended up in 7th out of the 14 finishers. 

2024 I had to skip for a couple reasons. One being the fifty would be raced on Sunday, meaning I would want to take the following Monday off work. When they had it on Saturdays, I just came down on Friday, ran the race, hung out, and went home on Sunday. I also just had a baby, so that kind of complicated things. I'm pleased to hear the 2025 edition will take place on a Saturday as it had in years past. I do plan on registering again. Probably going back to fixed gear, and hopefully kicking ass!