Monday, July 30, 2007

The fact that I stayed up watching The World's Strongest Man Competition after the Tour coverage didn't help matters...

EFTA Bradbury Mt. Challenge

Miriam was supposed to come up and race this one but when her alarm went off she said she wasn’t feeling well, I told her “no baby, that’s how everyone feels at 5AM, don’t worry”. But she was actually quite ill and ultimately bagged it, so I went off the pick up Greg “The Leg” and head up to Maine for a race which has traditionally thwarted me in every way.

The weather looked dicey, kind of overcast, hot, humid, with a slight hint of rain, it had poured the night before in Somerville and according to it had rained in Pownal as well…this course wet is an entirely different animal than when it’s dry. Root fields which when dry merely jar your spine and tear your triceps to shreds become bike-redirecting, slippery as greased ice, you’re on your ass before you know what hit you nightmares when they’re wet. Please let the course be dry.
We got there with time to spare, wasted all that time chatting with all the nice people we ran into, it was horrible. The turn out was huge, like never before, and this for a race that breaks bodies and crushes souls like no other. After doing a headcount of super-fast guys, realizing that it was nearly guaranteed that we’d be out of the money in Open-Elite class Greg and I decided to register for the single speed class and save fifteen bucks. We were all starting at the same time and doing the same miles so we’d know how we stacked up and we’d have more money to spend on beer at the end of the day.
It was a Lemans start, a short one but it still involved running, I really wasn’t taking it very seriously, paid no attention to where I lined up or put my bike, but when we took off about five seconds in I found myself sprinting with the top ten guys, problem was when I got to the pile of bikes I had no idea where mine was, a lot of people had laid down there bikes after me. Took a while but I found my Rig, got up to full ‘cross run pace and mounted. I think we rode for about 100 yards before the hole shot which was straight up a fresh cut, soft as hell hill, more ‘cross training, shouldered the bike and ran, actually ran up the hill, passing dudes by crashing and stomping my way through the brush on the side of the trail. I was forced to dismount repeatedly, either by the soft steepness of the trail or by other riders climbing in their granny gears and bobbling about like a two year old who just had a shot of tequila. This got a bit old, I was running a lot, I wasn’t losing too much ground to the geared guys, but I was getting beatdown, it was hard to recover and the running was adding up. Eventually a couple Bikeman riders came around me as I walked up a hill, I told them I had “run out of run”, it was to be a thirty mile race I wasn’t going to empty the tank running up these stupid hills.

At the rider meeting the promoter gave us the breakdown, he told us we were doing 17 miles on one side of the start finish area field, and 13 miles on the other…only me being the amazing brain scientist I am I totally forgot which side we were doing what on. I was hoping that we were doing the short mileage on this side, I was not having much fun, I wanted it to end. I was still in contact with the Bikemen, one of them had pre-ridden part of the course and he warned me of a scary, slippery rock wall which was looming ahead. Sure enough, we come screaming down this descent and have to bang a left turn…on a moss covered, off-camber rock face, two feet from a five foot stone wall with steep transition and potential for severe bodily harm below it. We all stuck it but it was terrifying still. Another scary moment came on a gravel road descent where we were going about 30mph but it felt like 40, suddenly a stream crossing popped up, large rock borders on either side and a four foot gap between, I lofted over, coming down all squirrelly, heart in my throat, not the type of thing I would if I thought about it for a nanosecond.
Finally we came out into some stuff where I could actually get on top of my gear and climb, here I got away from a couple of the Bikemen, with one more in my sites ahead. The other riders were taking circuitous routes around the…roots, I decided to put all my confidence in my WTB Nano-Raptors which I’d set up tubeless with Stan’s Sealant and rail straight over them and take the direct line up the hill. I was running well under 30psi so I’d feel my rear tire bottom out occasionally but experienced no leakage or flats. Shortly after that I came down through the start/finish and entered the other side of the course which was an improvement right off the bat, I got my spin on, letting , my legs recover a bit before it was back into the gnarly singletrack, only on this side there was virtually no running and it was nearly dead flat so the average speed was coming up, maybe bringing this race into the three hour range. The singletrack was technical and labyrinthine that you couldn’t tell how big gaps were, there were guys all around you, front and back, it was disorienting. I could still see the Bikeman boys creeping behind me and there was another one in front, I gapped up to him and waited for a bobble so I could run around him, instantly my pace increased, I had the singletrack to myself. There was a Maxxis rider up ahead, I was slowly closing on him but again it was hard to tell with all the noodling about we were doing. The we got into some crazy twisty turny tree-lined trails, I could hear someone bearing down on me, I caught glimpses of a blue kit…Skip Brown sporting the tight looking new Seven Cycles kit? Uh-oh. But it turned out to be Michael Patrick, seasoned Fisher Pro fresh off a 24th place at Mt. Snow, about the only guy in the race I wouldn’t feel bad getting passed by. He’d had technical issues early on and now he was just surging back with a vengeance. I tried to hold his wheel but it was nuts, he’s stronger than me and he can ride a bike better, oddly enough he was pulling away and I was nearly eating it on every corner. I did stay on him for about ten grueling, anaerobic minutes, we came around the Maxxis kid somewhere in there. I was hoping that Patrick would drag me back to Paul Simoes, monster big-gear pushing single speeder, technical master with the potty mouth of a sailor with Turrets syndrome, but there was a fireroad section through the feedzone and that was it for my bullet train back to Paul, I caught one glimpse of Michael after that and it was a forty second gap kind of glimpse.
Shortly after the feedzone my camelbak gave it’s last death gurgle, what time is it? Oh, if I’m on a three hour pace then this IS just like a ‘cross race, no water for forty minutes, put your head down and go buddy! The last portion of singletrack was killer, swooping, almost too tight for the 29er, but then I’d seesaw over some fresh cut washboard stuff and say “I love you big wheels”. At this point in the race my wheels would reply “We love you too man”. I knew we had to be getting close and I still hadn’t seen Paul, I did see Boobar and Patrick up the way, but I didn’t think the latter part of the course favored a single speeder trying to catch geared riders. My mouth was getting dry but I was hesitant to ask spectators if it was almost over but when I came out onto a fireroad near the three hour mark and saw some folks I blurted out “We gotta be about done right?”. “Ya, the finish lines 100 yards away”. Sweetness.
When I rolled across the line I saw Paul, not sure how long he was in but word was he snagged 4th overall, bad-ass. It took me nearly an hour to realize that he was in a separate class and that I had technically won my class but I knew who the better rider was and that’s what really counts at the end of the day. On an odd note, there was a rider at the finish who shouldn’t have been, a guy I’d passed on the first section of the course as he was climbing in his granny gear, after I passed him nobody except for Michael Patrick passed me, you know when you get passed later in a race when things have thinned out, you might not remember everyone you pass but you know when somebody passes you, it leaves a mark. He wasn’t in my class so I didn’t feel like it was my business to call attention to it. He did say at one point a woman told him he was going the wrong way…maybe that’s because he was going the wrong way and cutting the course? Whatever, some of the course was badly marked and if he didn’t realize what he did then it’s not cheating it’s simply a mistake, like accidentally falling into a syringe filled with someone else’s blood. I’m just making a joke, if he truly didn’t realize what happened then it’s fine, no worries.
So I’m feeling good going into the 101 next saturday, I know I’ve got at least 30 fast miles in me, now what to do about the other 71?


jasonwg said...

Laughed out loud - "I love you big wheels" "we love you to man".
Great write up as usual. Is this cross posted on your My Space page?

Tom said...

excellent job. I wasn't loving the first part either on the ss but in hindsight I think the suffering will pay off next weekend.