History of a racing headcase
Most of my friends and loved ones are well aware that I become a total nutjob in the face of competition. A few years ago, I actually had to stop racing because it was making me completely crazy every time I got on a bicycle. Endurance “races” never seemed like races to me, so I never really took them very seriously and always had fun. Its only been this year that I’ve poked my toe back into the lake that is the XC Mountain Bike Race. In June, I did the Hanson Hills CPS race. I only had to do 1 lap, since I was doing sport/beg SS and it was a fantastic lap. One of my best ever racing experiences. I was not fast, nor was I strong, but damnit, I pushed and pushed and pushed and didn’t give up, and I really had fun.
I also pushed hard and raced hard during my 2 laps of the Tree Farm for the relay in August – and had fun.
So, I was excited about the Maybury CPS Time Trial that was this past weekend. We’ve been getting out on the bikes a lot more lately and I was feeling strong and confident. Maybury is a tough trail, but I know it well, and it was to be only 1 lap since its a time trial. I’d even posted on the interwebs that I would be racing. I was committed.
It started on Friday. Mike had been in Mexico all week and we all wanted to ride when he got home. It was a gorgeous night and Nick and I were both out of work early enough to make it Mike’s house for a good long ride. We rode from Mike’s place out to stony – taking the long long climb into the park off of the CRT so that we could easily stop by the Skills Park and check out the happenings. After playing around there for a bit, we took the paved path to the MTB trailhead, rode in, did the pines and headed back to Troy for a total of 26+ miles. Not super long by most people’s standards, but for little old me, on my dinky-geared singlespeed (32/19 on a 29er), chasing Mike and Nick (who were having a man-war), it was a solid high-intensity ride.
Even higher intensity on the way home, as it was getting dark and I didn’t want to loose contact with the boys while on the road. And honestly? I pretty much knew that I was doing harm for the next day’s race, but its not often that I feel THAT good on a ride, THAT strong and THAT confident. I was having so much fun pushing myself and keeping up, that I just didn’t even want to back off.
Unfortunately, when we got back to Mikes, I completely spaced on the Recoverite. Instead, we went inside and I had 2 large glasses of gatorade and a handful of peanut M&Ms. It was well after 9:00 when we finally got around to eating dinner. It was 10:00 before I started gathering merchandise and packing the Jeep for the next day.
I bet it was close to 1am before we went to bed. I was up before 7 and out the door before 8.
Nerves of Paper
I was nervous from the minute I woke up. My nerves get so bad before races that I just can’t swallow food. Its not that I get nauseous or anything like that, but its more like my throat closes up and will not swallow anything that’s not liquid. I sucked down a non-fat latte on the way out to Maybury, but couldn’t even think about a pastry or anything of that nature. I figured that at least, the milk in the latte would give me something. Heh.
I managed to distract myself for awhile with setting up the merchandise tables and tent, but not enough of a distraction to actually eat some food. In retrospect, there were some things I could (should) have done. I will think about those next time and call it lesson learned.
As I was sitting on the couch Saturday morning, checking email and whatnot, I noticed that sweat was just dripping off of my neck. Seven o’clock in the morning and I was already sweating. Nice. And in case you’re wondering? No, it didn’t cool off as the day went on. I’m pretty sure it was 93* and remarkably humid when it was time for me to start my race. There are really no words in the dictionary to describe how badly I react to heat and humidity. My body (and mind) just wants to shut down.
In order to prepare for a race in such humidity, you’d think I’d have some gatorade, maybe plan on having an extra bottle of water with me for when the first one ran out? Maybe I’d even be smart enough to have gatorade AND water with me on the trail to help with hydration? yeah .. this goes back to nerves of paper and not being able to think clearly before these things. I did manage to have a HammerGel about 20 minutes before my start time, and had another in my pocket in case of extreme emergency – but I only brought one bottle of water with me. The likelihood of me actually eating that gel was low, because I wouldn’t have had enough water to wash it down with (Hammer products make my mouth and lips really really sticky, and that makes me really really frustrated when I can’t wash it away).
One bottle of water is hardly enough to get me through a warmup on a day like this, let alone a 9 mile time trail. By mile 3, I was already being extra careful when drinking, just to make sure that I would have SOME water left at the end. I was out of water before I was out of the woods.
I’m giving her all she’s got captain!
I had no power. None. My legs did not want to carry me anywhere. I was .86 of a mile into the race before I had to walk my first climb (note: I’ve successfully cleared every climb on this trail on my SS many, many times.. its a tough trail, but not so tough that climbs need to be walked – even by me). On that climb, I was passed by the only other woman in the Singlespeed class as she rode right by me. She’d started 30 seconds behind me. I was already in last place. I just had nothing to give.
I rode when I could and walked when I needed to. I walked a lot. Too much. More than I EVER remember walking at Maybury. I wanted to stop. I thought about turning around at mile .86 and saying “woops, I made a mistake” … But, I’d paid $35 just a couple of hours prior, and the whole lap was less than 9 miles .. so I figured I’d just keep going and see what happened. I mean, I HAD to get warmed up sooner or later, right?
The trail was in really rough shape – it was so dry that there were trenches everywhere and babyhead rocks rolling all around .. I’d had trouble holding a good line for most of the first 1/2 of the trail. But when I got to the “new” section, things started to flow well for me, I wasn’t fast, but I was holding good lines and carrying momentum better than I had been.
The absolute best part of the trail comes right after that new section – its a long flowy downhill that goes on for like 1/2 mile. Toward the end of this awesome downhill is a little rock drop that always makes me go “woo hoo”. Through this section, I’d finally found my groove, and I was rocking. A fast guy came up behind me and mumbled something that I couldn’t understand. I was finally smiling and just didn’t want to give up my momentum, so I made him wait until there was a bit of a straight away. Had I known it was the hermitmann, I might have hugged the side of the trail a bit to let him by .. sorry Rob! About 10 seconds after he passed me, Bill Clikeman came flying by with my teammate Alan hot on his tale. Rob ended up scoring 2nd, so I don’t think I slowed him down too much.
That downhill section was the absolute highlight of my race. It reminded me why I ride, and why I race. It made me smile and added another notch on my “love this bike” scale.
The best part about racing is crossing the finish line
No matter how good or bad a race is, the absolute best part is crossing the finish line. Its even better when you’re friends are all there and no one is tearing down the finishing chute while they’re waiting for you to finish 😉
I finished DFL in the Sport/Beginner SS class – the other woman finished nearly 20 minutes ahead of me and was only one place higher. The competition in this class was brutal.
It was so hot that day that even after changing out of my sweaty bike clothes, drinking boatloads of water, and sitting in the shade, my heartrate never really slowed down to normal. It slowed some after I finished, but I just wasn’t able to cool down enough to be comfortable. We packed up the merchandise as soon as the last class of riders started coming across the finish line and hung out just long enough to win some HEED in the swag giveaway.
The Metro South Chapter of the MMBA did a fantastic job with this event. There were no real hiccups that I know of (other than the fast guys eating all the food before the sport guys were finished) and everyone seemed to have a great time. You guys are awesome!