14 July, 2011

Gears and Tears...

I am a bit behind, so this post will be short, and without pictures for now.

A couple weeks ago (2JUL11) I participated in my first geared mountain bike race in year.  I had gear at Barry-Roubaix, but really is was probably 2002 when I was on a geared bike on a trail, and 1996 when I was in a race.

In that time, I have grown pretty accustomed to racing singlespeed.  I know how hard I can push to makes my legs hurt, with the forced recovery that a singlespeed requires on the flats and downhill.

The first lap at Stony, I rode at that level of hurt.  Unfortunately, gears allowed me to maintain that level for the entire 10 miles.  We started as a pack, and I was behind the leaders.  As we come to a brief rise in the trail, I stand, hammer and pass in typical SS style.  However, on the flat...click...click and keep going.

I lost a couple of positions on a loose turn as my back wheel slid out.  Still trying to get comfortable with the Bontrager 29.3 tires. 

My pre-race preparations were not any different than usual, however my standard drink was causing major tummy issues.  Every sip made my stomach grumble, making me a burping machine.  I still finished the first lap in around 45 minutes, 5 minutes faster than my expected goal.

By the second lap, the heat was beginning to become noticeable, and my legs were feeling a bit tired.  My second bottle was a bit different, and I was able to consume the delicious beverage without further issue.  On the last climb, I dropped to granny, and made my way to the top.  This was unexpected, as I usually do pretty good with climbing.  I finish this lap ~5 minutes slower than the first, just over 50 minutes.

By the time I got into the third lap, I was spent.  I was doing every climb in granny, barely getting my legs to turn over.  I have not experienced this level of effort in recent memory.  It was all I could do to keep my legs turning over.  I would say "pedaling squares" but I honestly think that would be an improvement.  I finished this lap, the whole time considering  just calling it quits when I got back.

My wonderful wife handed me my last bottle, told me it was the last lap and head up.  I figured I could churn out another 10 miles, although I am not sure my body agreed.  I felt like a full on bonk coming, to the point I was looking for the best spot to fall over when my wheels stopped turning.

About 6 miles in, there was a left turn going uphill.  I muffed my shifting and hopped off the bike to walk up the hill.  About 3 steps later, I hear my tire exhale in apparent exhaustion.  What the hell.  I was this far in, and wasn't going to quit now.  I move off the the side of the trail and begin the tube patch process.  I found the lead, threw on the patch, attached my CO2 canister and watched my tire fill....and drain.  The dreaded double bite.  I haven't had too many issues with tubes, or flats so I didn't think to look for more holes.  

Out of gas, both literally and figuratively, I was fortunate to be close to the Tailwind ATV, which provided my easy out directions.  I trudged through the woods, put the bike next to the truck and made my way to the finish.  My wife saw me coming, made sure my DNF wasn't injury related and walked me over to turn in my sensor.  I tossed it into the nearly full grocery bag, and she consoled me with the sheer number of people who did not make it to the end, either due to mechanicals or exhaustion.

As I got back to the truck, I finally noticed jut how soaked my jersey was, and how friggen' hot it was.  I made my way to the lake and took advantage of the shower facilities before heading home.  I was never so glad to stand in a public shower.

The results showed 66 DNFs, about 30% of the total racers.  I think my power/energy issues were two-fold, both over-exertion due to gears, and the weather sapping my strength.

This race also marked the 4th in a row with a bike issue.  I think I need a new mechanic.

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