So last week worked out well for rest... circumstance had it so that I wasn't able to ride except for Wednesday, when I went hunting for dirt roads with Zank and Mark B. The only thing we found were flat tires... 4 of them... all courtesy of Mr. Z. I've never seen 4 flats in 17 miles of riding until now.
Sunday was my anniversary, 13 years of marital bliss. We celebrated Saturday night with dinner out. The chicken was over cooked, the restaurant was noisy and the ravioli was rubbery but it was awesome because we never go out. This was our first dinner out without the kids in exactly one year.
In discussing what we could do Sunday I casually threw out the bike race that was in the next town as an option, and after some consideration, I got the green light! She just up and told me to go. Sweet!!
Still a licensed Cat 3, I hurried over to catch the Cat 1 field, which they let me in w/o a problem. (What do we have the USCF for again?) I lined up second row with 15 other guys, none of whom I knew except Kurt Perham, a guy who regularly kicks my ass in cross. I had no warm up at all, and at the gun I'm DFL and gulping down dust by the mouthful. Perham is at the front, where I expected him to be.
Into the woods and a few guys were clearly not going to be able to keep this up, least of all me. I got by a few on the long, bumpy, dusty as hell climb and welcomed the sight of the first descent, but was not expecting the dried-up waterfall that we dropped down. Kurt... well... he's a powerful guy and all... but not the most technically strong dude on an mtb.... he was shuffling down the hill. We rode together for a little while but I had no problem dispatching him in anything that wasn't pure pedaling. I know what it's like to ride trails that you don't feel fast on so I can relate. It must have sucked!
Out to the first real clearing and within 30 seconds he's back with me, laying down some serious power on the flat out sections. We kinda-sorta traded pulls, me leading on the technical parts (and dropping him) and he leading on the flats (and dropping me). Team work!!
These mountain bike races are long... and this one was advertised to be 22 miles over 4 laps. The first lap was 6.5 miles. Do the math, that's a 26 mile race. Some may be pleased that they paid for a 22 mile races and got 4 miles for free, however I was not. It was a hot dusty death march and I wondered aloud what the hell I was doing.
There are other fields racing at the same time in this form of cycling, so I had no clue where I was in my category. A few guys were around for a lap or two and then fell back. Others came through. Some women mixed in. Still others on the side of the trails with mechanical problems. Really had no idea how my race was going other than that I was still close to Kurt.
At the start of the third lap, my garmin fell off my handlebars. I thought about going back, because while I wasn't sure where I was in the race I was positive I wasn't leading it and that even if I was there wasn't going to be enough prize money to cover my lost technology. I commiserated with my fellow racers and one guy said "I saw it fall off going down that hill." There was hope, and I decided to check next time around.
Throughout that third lap I was consumed with having lost the Garmin: imagining it crushed on the course, wondering which model I should replace it with, and sick about how much it was going to cost for something that was just in my possession 2 minutes ago!!!! Why hadn't I gone back for it? Didn't want to seem bothered by loosing a $300 watch? Pros would keep going (I think) so I hoped for the best and kept up the pace to get back to the hill asap.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that a good deal of my motivation at that point came from trying to keep up with and perhaps defeat Mr. Perham. He's really that much better than me, and though this clearly wasn't his forte I was hoping to get into his head with a win. HA! Coming through the Start/Finish for the last lap he declared that he was done and pulled off the course. Whaa? I was pretty smoked but had to keep going to check on the Garmin and finish the race. With no carrot to chase and a good 30 min since the Garmin dropped, I lost all motivation to live.. er.. race hard any more. I was blown and my mind was out completely out of it.
It took a while, but I managed to get to the hill and asked a few bystanders if they found a Garmin. "Yeah, they took it to registration" Effin yeah!!!! I was further told that it looked to be fine. Woot!!! This lifted my spirits, but not my pace. I was still noodling along, just running around the course and getting passed by just about everyone. Men, women, and children all had their way with me, but I encouraged each of them on because I thought I was still holding my place. This race... much like this report... had gone on long enough.
Nearing the last hill about 30 minutes into the last lap (only 3/4 of the way around... earlier laps were taking 30 minutes to complete in their entirety), I saw a guy who I had left on lap one. He was an NEBC rider who turned out to be a good guy and friend of the Rowells. I recognized this dude from earlier in the day and decided that I should try and hold him off. He was on me in no time flat, and past shortly thereafter. I tried to keep him in sight but couldn't, and only got back close to him on a flowy descent towards the end of the loop. The 30 minutes of non-racing was a pretty long break, so I flew down the hill and attacked on a short dirt road rise before the last section of trail. I got a gap and drilled it last-lap-of-a-cyclocross-race-style to hold him off for ...6th place? How the hell do you ride that slow for a full 25% of a race and manage to get 6th?
Later I discovered that one guy I let pass probably 10 minutes into that final lap was in my field, and he got 4th! So had I just managed to keep pace and stay in front of him I would have taken 3rd?! Maybe? Listen, I'm not saying that I could have stayed in front of him, I was DONE, but had I been able to, well, who knows. I guess things were going pretty well for those first three laps afterall.
It was fun, but I'm looking forward to cross season and races that are 1/3 as long as that one.