Monday, May 18, 2015

The last race of my career







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WEEPING WILLOW 2015

I'd thought I was maybe in some sort of shape.  Had been setting personal bests on Strava in the week leading up to it. Granted, those were on short sections, but I'd hoped that perhaps they hinted at a decent finish.  Surely I could never win, but maybe third?

What I was forgetting was that my last race (where I did finish third) was about five years ago, two of which have featured major upheavals in our lives which led to lots of comfort food.

Still, I made it to the starting line on time.  That was a sort of victory, since I've been having dream/nightmares for years now about showing up at MTB races late or lost or whatever.

Within a mile I knew something was wrong.  I just had nothing on the first significant hill.  I have my suspicions about why, but I'm never very good on hills anyway, so I won't bother you with them.  Unfortunatley, unlike my rides where I purposefully avoid hills like this, the race course makers CHOSE them.  On purpose.  Not good.

One other pseudo-non-excuse:  It was hot (damn hot) but I'd been going since early morning, so hadn't really noticed the warmup. Not historically good for me to... do anything.

After a few minutes I passed one guy, who was waiting up for his wife, who was in the next class to start (Tennant).  I knew I had at least one behind me. I drank some of my Clif-shot super racer juice. and began hiking up the hill. A hill I'd climbed in the snow, mind you, with an aim to some sort of "preparation" for this race.  Jumped back on and carved down the hill to find... another steep hill.  What's that sound?  Is that my spirit breaking?  Not quite yet: that would happen in another five minutes when the entire women's field passed me.  Like I was standing still.

Now I'm enough of a feminist that I don't care if women pass me.  Still, they started about five minutes behind me, so this was not a good sign.  If I was going to catch the guys I was supposed to be racing with, I'd have to go through the entire field of these women to do it.  Not likely.  But was I giving up?  No.  I had one guy behind me. 

Also of some importance is that I had been drinking away. In fact, I had to pee.  Kind of bad, actually.  What did I have to lose?  Should I stop NOW?  Or NOW?  Maybe NOW?  Eventually, I pulled off, left my bike against a tree, walked as far back into the woods as seemed decent, and let 'er rip.  I heard voices behind me, but I'd be dueling off and on with a red girl and a military guy (jerseys, people, not a comment on her Native American heritage or lack of it), so I just assumed it was them.  It turned out later this was Tennant and his wife.  They didn't want to interrupt.  Oh, geez- now I'm baring myself in front of the women's class? So, in fact, I was in last place.  For the Clydesdales---the class created specifically for the larger-than-usual or the overweight.

But see, it's an open class.  Meaning someone 6' 5" who's an expert racer who's raced for years but weighs over 200, can race with out of shape people like me.  All I can say is that the guy in second place didn't look to me like he had any fat on him.  Just long muscley legs.

At the midpoint, the race marshall said "do you have enough water?  Drink up, okay?" with concern in his voice.  Was the fat guy going to die?  He was going pretty slow...

But the thing is, I wasn't feeling that bad.  On downhills or even more on flat sections, I was actually pretty happy with how I was riding... clearing large rocks, banking through turns, etc. I opened my super-racer-Roctane-Gu.  Just like Kabush uses.  Didn't notice any difference, but maybe that stuff is what was keeping me going?

So, on I went, pushing up hills, riding them if I could, and trying to gain ground where I could.  I passed a girl whose derailleur was skipping (btw, guy who fixed her bike, I think that's actually illegal, but hey- what do I care?)

And then came the switchbacks.  And the experts.  Or maybe they were sports.  Not sure, but man were they fast.  It was totally unfair for me to get in their way, as they were lapping me, so I just got off course.  This was the hardest part.  I tried to cheer them on in my way, and they'd feel like they needed to encourage me.  "You guys are the real heroes! Most people [unsaid:  Like me] are home on the couch!"  "Keep going, you're almost there!" "Good job, keep it up!".  I've ridden in these woods for 20 years, kid.  I know I'm almost there. By the way, are you even 20?  No?

Still, all psych-out aside, I needed to get off the trail for these folks, and there were a lot of them.  And they were spread out about every 30 seconds.  I appreciated the rest, but it sure didn't make my time any faster.  But who was I to discuss saving time?  I had practically been dropped by the whole race.

And here's the thing---I didn't really care.  During all this, I just kinda thought "I wish I was just out here riding alone". I think I was either having heat stroke, an epiphany, theophany, or all three. I just didn't have the testosterone, or the urge, or the motivation, to push harder. I felt this leading up to the race, too, and I think it still hasn't fully processed.  But Lucy and I have been watching little league baseball after our rides on Fridays, and maybe that played into how I felt.  I just didn't care if they were faster than I was.  I've espoused that "spiritual" view of singlespeeding for years but I think maybe the whole Un-racer-Rivendell-ride-for-enjoyment-contemplative-nature-watcher thing has finally permeated my whole system.  I used to feel that way but keep track of a pecking order. but this day I just felt like all the bullheaded choices I made knowing they slow me down:  rigid forks, flat pedals, single gear, baggy shorts, etc. etc.  all made my ride what it was.  Harder.  I did this---and I was fine with that.

Of course, part of this is Strava.  I can have my own 'races' anytime I ride. Feeling bad that day?  No problem, I can race these guys and girls' electronic trail the rest of the year---and will.

I'd promised Lucy I'd try hard for the last mile.  I can't say if I did or didn't--- it was downhill and then there was the cornfield and the giant tire, and I heard her say "Hi Dada!" but I wasn't expecting her to be there, and then I laid down on the ground and a dog tried to lick me, and Kathy gave me a tiny water and then she and Lucy were gone, and then... podium, more starts.... shouldn't I stick around for something?  Then I realized "what the heck am I doing here?  I'm hungry, thirsty, and I don't know anyone.  So I went home.

Glad I got to meet Joe Re's baby, though.









we even got to go under the giant blow up tire.  So pro!
the relative calm before the storm... and by storm, I mean a storm of weariness.
check out that plate! So professional looking.  Thanks for making us feel all full-factory, Kenda!
Lefty AND a singlespeed. Nice.
Is that Paul Curley?
see boloco on the white bike? See how he wants to give it his all?  Yeah, that would be me if it was a flat 5 mile course.  But it wasn't and I wasn't.
look at all that motivation!  I had none of that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015