Thursday before I had plans for getting in a final ride to make sure I was in good form for the race. However, work took over, I skipped lunch, then went home to do chores and pack. Alas, no tune up ride.
Friday I woke with a slight scratch in my throat. Something wasn't right, but I was hopeful it was something I ate. I pounded the vitamin C just in case. I did get out on the TART trail for about 30 minutes. It was a little chilly, but it didn't feel like my legs were hurting. If fact, it didn't feel much like anything.
Saturday morning arrived. I awoke early, and arrived to Mt. Holiday around 7 am. I had picked up my number the day before, but wanted to arrive early because I knew parking was an issue. After sitting in the truck resting for about an hour, I knew it was time to start getting ready.
Around 20 after 8, I went out on my warm-up recon. I headed up the hill through the starting chicane, back down and into the woods. There was a bit of climbing, nothing terrible, and I continued the ~1 mile into the Holiday Hills subdivision, and saw "Heart Attack Hill". I was not too worried about the climb itself, it did not appear too bad at first glance. The issue seemed to be the amount of sand at the bottom, preventing a good run-up at the hill. I hiked this part, saving my legs for the race. A quick loop around the sub and I headed back to the start/finish line.
The staging area was filling up, and the line of riders was snaking up the hill to the lodge. There was a LOT of people. I had not problem finding my wave. However, whilst waiting in queue, my Garmin shut off. When I turned it back on, it "discovered" numerous heart rate sensors. Apparently I wasn't the only one wearing one! [Note: Check auto-off options on Garmin unit]
9:06 came quick enough, and we lined up at the start. The group consisted of all singlespeeders, Expert women, and maybe another group or two. The gun went off, and the top SSers were gone, but I was caught in a pack of people granny-gearing up the 20' of Mt. Holiday. Once clear I made my move and took off into the woods.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. I was going pretty good through the area I had recently recon'd, but I was feeling a bit "off". It felt as if I was working too hard. I looked at my computer only to see " --" where my HR zone should be. It just gave up looking at the start. Damn. I got back to Heart Attack Hill, no idea where I was in the group. I didn't get passed yet, so that was OK. I decided to hike up the hill again, just as I had "practiced" during my warm-up. This wasn't a sprint up the hill, but the head-down trudging of a beaten man, and I was only 1 mile into the race.
Once onto the subdivision pavement, I powered off and on my Garmin, hoping to get some info back. At this time I was passed by a group of 3 expert/Elite (?) women driving the geared train. I tried to hang on when I could, but I was out geared.
Into the private land called "Joy Ride" which was pretty fun. However, I caught the group of ladies again, behind a slower male rider. The ladies were all spinning along patiently. I think this was the leaders, and nobody wanted to make the first move, so the just went along marking one another. However, this pace was not suitable to me, as the long VASA flats ahead aren't really in my favor.
We finally came out of the woods, and onto the first power line stretch. I made my move around the ladies, but the course was rough and sandy. I was unfamiliar with the "good" lines and made one aggressive move too many.
I think some sort of sand worm, like from Dune, reached out and threw me to the ground. It was a spectacular crash. One moment I was making a pass at ~18 MPH, the next I was on my back. I did notice I only unclipped from one pedal. As I tumbled down the hill I rolled over and catapulted my bike through the air using my other leg. Apparently you can get both good height and distance flinging a ~18 pound carbon bike down a hill at speed! I came to a stop and immediately jumped up, ran the 20 - 30 feet to my bike, grabbed my bottle which came to rest next to it, jumped on and was back racing. What felt like a matter of seconds was probably 30-40 of them as I get recollected. I hit the woods again, desperate to get back with the group that sped away. In the distance behind me I heard "Wow man, that was an awesome crash!" but didn't hang around long enough to respond.
The next part I don't recall too vividly. I did a brief assessment of my condition, nothing missing, or bleeding. Other than some sand in my face I was fine.. Then my bike, wheels went around, brakes seemed to work, chain on, it all seemed good. A short bit later another SSer caught me. I don't know him, a blond fellow with a Specialized jersey. His side was muddy, so it was a safe assumption the he also "touched the floor" not long ago. I rode with him for a while, at least past the big climb around the 10 mile mark. He must have had a decently large gear, as I would make the pass on every climb, and he would close the gap and pass back once it leveled back out. We did this back and forth for a bit, then he pulled away. Shortly after a single speed Surly caught me, rider wearing a Short's jersey I believe, and disappeared quickly.
This is the part where I was coming to the conclusion something wasn't right. I wanted to give chase. My brain said "Stick with him legs" but my legs weren't getting the message. They kept going around, but there wasn't the fight, no sense of urgency. I just kept spinning along, no idea where I was, race position or emotionally. I have honestly not felt like this at all this season. I thought about quitting, what was the point, right? I was getting dropped left and right. I thought I was strong, but these guys left me to flounder like a kid on training wheels.
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.
-- D.H. Lawrence
Then I though about a riding buddy, about the struggles I have been trying to help him with regarding his racing. How could I tell him to stick it out, that it will get better, if I wasn't willing to do the same. "I did my best to continue to push the pace. I never had a sense of my performance, my HR never got too high, my legs never burned. It was like cruise control. From mile 12 on, I picked up almost 2 MPH on average over my point of self pity. I don't know if I can attribute this to my resilience, or just a downward trend in the course.
Back to the subdivision, almost done. I did what I could on the pavement, pedaling the flats, tucking on the descents. On the trail leading back up to the Mt. Holiday, I caught a glimpse of orange ahead of me. One final push to catch the Short's guy ahead. As I closed the gap, I saw the tell-tale silver dangle of a rear derailleur, and realized it was not the guy. At this point, I let up, and cruised the final chicanes down to the finish.
One last obstacle, the mud pit. I saw this earlier and noticed the right side was shallower than the left. I splashed through in an anti-climactic flourish. This served as the bland cherry on top of what was a disappointing sundae of a race.
I got back to the truck to relax and change. No idea of the results (I did not want to fight my way into the area with the displays). I was able to summarize my race in a single word...pitiful. That was how I felt, that was how I felt I raced, that was my performance analysis.
I did make it back to the party, and checked my results, I ended up in 5th. That was ~1 minute behind what I assumed were the 2 guys that passed me during the race, and ~10 minutes behind the top 2 places, that I knew were fast.
In hindsight, I based my performance on last year's results, with the winners finishing in less than 1h10m. My 1h26m was way behind the goal I had set for myself, and that was very disappointing. However, seeing that the 2 winners (locals that were top 2 last year) were nearly 10 minutes slower than 2010 as well.
We hung out at the finish and cheered on the other riders trickling in, I had my Right Brain IPA in hand, although it wasn't what I was needing at that moment. I didn't run into any familiar faces from that point. I did see one rider come through the mud that some how managed to case the backside of the pit and to a total faceplant in the dirt on the other side. He hopped back up to the cheers and jeers of those watching, and tried to ride to the finish. However he had taco-ed his front wheel so severely, it would spin between his for legs. He hoisted his bike above his head and dashed across the line. It is this kind of performance that serves as a reminder as to why we all do this.
We did not stay and enjoy the duration of festivities, I needed to get back someplace warm(er) and rest. It was to the hotel, then the hot tub, then the bed for me. Later on that evening, the full results were posted, and I finished 36th of a total 447 in the Stout race. Nothing to sneeze at, or in my case, cough at.
I would like to again thank my wonderful wife for the pictures, enduring the early mornings, my pissy attitude, and taking care of me when I am sick. This trifecta of grumpiness must not have been a joy to deal with.
So this week, I am going to take it easy, and see how much I can recover in 5 days. I have already paid for my Brighton Stage Race entry, so I hope to pull things together.