13 June, 2011

My White Whale

This weekend marked my second trip to the Tailwind race at Fort Custer, the Custer TT.

Last year I started great, an was doing well until a broken chain at mile 7 ended my racing day.  I still finished by scooting along and coasting when I could, but finished almost an hour behind the winner, and 30 minutes being the place in front of me.  It sucked.

This year, I was back for revenge.  I took all the proper steps in preparing.  Including participating in the annual Tri-County Bike Asscociation's T-Shirt Ride, a metric century, the day before.  I knew I would be properly warmed up.

We got to the park and registered painlessly, which lately seems to be somewhat of an exception.  The day was somewhat cool, with some wind.  I sat in the truck most of the time before the race, only getting out to spin my legs out for about 15 minutes before my start.  Well, actually it was 25 minutes before the start, because the "event" time was behind "actual" time be around 11 minutes.

All singlespeeders were started intermixed, so you had no idea if the guy in front or passing was Expert/Elite or Sport/Beginner.  I lined up against a very youg fellow, and I had to give him props for coming out and racing in the "adult" categories at such a young age.

However, when the time came, it was me versus the clock and I was gone.  I started alongside the road and ducked into the trails.  I hit the 2-track and was pedaling at what I thought was a good pace.  I looked at my computer, and it said I was in HR zone 6.1, or otherwise above my maximum heart rate that I had input. [Sure enough, I checked the recorded data, and it said I hit 207 BPM.  I am not sure how accurate that is, but I did dip down and back up to 198]

Flowing into the singletrack, I was performing well.  My legs felt a little tired.  They were whining a bit, but not complaining too loudly, so I continued to push.  Shortly before Amusement Park (backwards) I got passed by a couple guys on the same team riding 2009 Superflies.  I tried to hang with them for a while, but they pulled away in the open.  I think they have been geared slightly lower, and working together.

Mile 7ish, going up the switchback climb, I passed the point where my chain snapped the previous year.  I was still pushing a good pace, and somewhat relieved to get the mechanical monkey off my back.  I cruised through the next section, across the creek and back towards the start.

Then, at mile 11.1 I wove (weaved?) between a couple of trees, and must have been a bit wide on the exit because something grabbed my front wheel and before I knew it, I was on the ground.  I knew there was a rider behind me, and I didn't want to get caught. I quickly jumped up and went to remount when I hear a strange rattle.  I looked down and saw my seat hanging from the brackets.  Apparently something was knocked loose in the fall.  I moved to the side to assess the situation, maybe I could put the seat back on, which is about the time that the rider behind passed.  "Screw it" I thought, I don't need to sit down.  I threw the seat into my jersey pocket and jumped back on.  About 20 yards later I stopped again to removed the hanging hardware, to make sure I didn't lose any pieces, and because the rattling was annoying me.

5 miles to go, not seat, unable to drink, and shortly my legs began screaming!  I was now riding a bit cautiously, since the remaining seatpost was a bit pointy, and I did not want to be impaled.  There was the big rooty step-up on green where I jumped off and ran, but the rest of the time it was stand and hammer.  Surprisingly, looking at the 1-mile splits, I actually picked up the pace at the end.

I loop around the closing mile past the start finish line.  I was suffering and the line looked so close, but I still had to loop back out and around.  I passed some spectators and my wife who was taking pictures.  Later I found out she was asked "Does he normally ride without a seat?" which may be an effective training strategy, but probably not the smartest idea.

Out of the woods, the final stretch to the finish is a grassy line alongside the road, with a slight uphill.  In front of me, I can see the rider that passed me.  At least, I think that was him.  I buried myself trying to close the gap.  I drove deeper into my pain cave, my brain telling me "It is OK if you get off and walk the rest" and my legs wholeheartedly agreeing.

Obviously my brain was wrong, and I told my legs to shut up.  I did not catch the guy before the line, and coasted through the corral and far enough away that I would not get run over by other finishers.  I then dismounted and collapsed.  My breathing was highly labored and sounded a bit like I was sobbing.  My wife came to my aid, worried I was badly injured.  I was fine, except for a 8" scrape up the front of my right thigh (I later found).

Then it was recovering enough energy  to make it back to the truck, load up the bike and wait for results.  Once posted, I found out I finished in 2nd place, 18 seconds behind first.  I was crushed.  All that effort, all the suffering for second place.  If I did not try to fix the seat, if I did not stop a second time to remove the bolts, if I had worked harder anywhere along the course...

It was a good day in all, hanging with my friends from the local Custer Cyclery team who had a strong showing, and cheering for them on the podium.  I am not sure if I will return to this race next year.  I have something to prove, but I am not sure I want to go through the frustration again.

Today will be spent recovering, and figuring out how to make sure I get that damn seat clamp dialed.  I have 2 weeks to figure it out.  Watch out then, the course will have to deal with one-pissed of mountain biker...

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