Monday, February 14, 2011

Chainbuster#1: Lessons in stupidity and pain

Saturday morning the WBL rolled out without me as I was already 15 minutes into a solo enduro ride at Heritage Park. Race season is upon me already and that means...

I had spent the last week desperately trying to get my MTB legs under me. Usually this involves applying blood and scabs to specific anatomical destinations
and practicing the core skill of mountain biking which involves basically not hitting trees.

Shit, who put that tree in the middle of the trail.
  I signed in for the beginner class solo 6 hour and was pleased to have time to visit the bathroom for the third time that morning. I missed the instructions during this time but I thought, "hey I know the rules, no sweat!" This thought however, would prove wrong in really stupid ways. The rules I thought I knew pertained to a different series. In that series, you could go out on another lap as long as you started it before the 6 hour mark. so if it was 5:59 when you crossed and you felt you could complete another lap by 6:59 you are welcome to go for it. Oddly, I did hear the announcer say that awards would be given at 4:30 sharp, which would be impossible  by the rules I remembered as people would still be finishing until 4:59. Being a bricklayer by profession, I am not really the brightest bulb in the bulb aisle and so let this little bit of contradiction waft through my fluffy brain without a second thought.

I knew from practice I could do laps in the 52-55 minute range and so 6 laps should be reasonable; what I wondered was, should I try to do 7 using the extra time if I completed 6 before 6 hours?

But let's start at the beginning. The crowding made the first lap pretty mellow and I decided to just relax and not worry, it was going to be a long day. There were some slick places that would only get worse and I didn't want to eat too much mud. So I worked on my efficiency and began nailing down lap after lap. I felt pretty good for the first 3-4 laps. It was definitely careful going for me as some areas just got muckier and muckier.  Laps 5 and 6, well, those really hurt. My arms and shoulders were tired and the hills burned my thighs. I didn't cramp though so my new routine of tonic water, tums, and gatorade seemed to be working. Welcome to solo endurance racing.

The last two laps I found myself often following a fellow on a Santa Cruz Tall Boy. This a sweet new model full suspension 29er. Only medical professionals can afford them in computer geniuses in Atlanta can afford them:

I talked with the guy briefly as I thought he was someone else and then was just too in pain to make much conversation. I began to call him "Tall Boy" in my mind as I tired to distract myself from suffering with inner coversation: "There's tall boy again. I wonder what category he's racing in? That tall boy really has a slow cadence. I wonder how much Tall Boy's bike cost? I bet I'd be really fast with Tall Boy's bike. He probably has too much money, I'm sure he steals it from widows and orphans. Oh look, tall boy again!"

Had I been wise enough to actually ask Tall Boy about his category I would learn that, coincidentally, he was! and we were the front of our race. There were some important differences between Tall Boy and myself that should be noted. First of all, I would later find out that I am several inches taller than Tall Boy, he just looks tall because his wheels are 3 inches bigger than mine. Second, I was stronger than tall boy last Saturday, though not as bright, And third, Tall Boy knew the correct rules of the race, unlike me.

So sometime in lap 6, I'd say with about 2 miles to go in the lap, Tall Boy cracks like me in the WBL sprint zone and I easily spin past him for what should have been for good. In the meantime, I am simply obsessed with the question, "should I try a 7th lap?" I also begin to get worried about some strange activity in my drive train and I'm worried it will seize up if I don't clean it out as all kinds of debris gets in there and can really cause a catastrophic failure. I also only have a little water on board. So I think, well I could just push it and do as good as I can for 6 laps and hope no one else goes out, or  I could make a quick pit (which is about 100 yards before the finish line) spray off my rear derailleur and grab another water.  so that's what I decide to do. I'll pit quickly and then ask the guy at the finish line if anyone is going out for a 7th lap. While I'm pitting, I hear a bike go by. Had I looked up, I would have seen Tall Boy. I didn't look up, I grabbed a banana instead, and rolled to the finish line eating a banana. I ask the guy, "I'm in solo beginner, do i need to go out for another lap? He says, you can't, there's only 25 minutes left, you would have to do the fastest lap in history. I said, "don't I have to the end of the 7th hour to finish?" and he said, "no, man everyone has to be in by 6 hours exactly."

Well I was relieved not to go out again. I had no idea how I did and wandered around for about 30 minutes in a stupor before someone told me the results were over at the Maxxis table.

I'm thinking you know how this ends, right? I got second place in my category by, get this, 3 seconds. Tall Boy was the bike I heard whizzing by while I was grabbing a banana and spraying water on my derailleur.

I have been having Tall Boy nightmares ever since. I have 4 weeks to train before the next Enduro. I really hope Tall Boy is there.

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