Sunday, May 21, 2006

WVMBA - Tour de Lake

The Tour de Lake race was in Spencer, W.V. It was a 3.5 hour drive down, but I listened to Harry Potter, and it went quickly. Arrived about an hour and a half early. Pre-rode about 4 miles of the trail to warm up. Trail seemed fairly dry in spite of the rain the last several days. The race would be 18 miles. I knew this was about 6 miles more than I was used to, and with the hills in West Virginia, I knew I was in for a challenge.

We all lined up on the dirt road near the parking lot. The experts in front, sport next, and beginners behind us. Experts went off, and then two minutes later we went. The race started on an old paved road and quickly went up a twisting very steep climb. Because of the pre-ride, I actually passed a few people up this climb as I knew which gear was good for me. The road then leveled out as it went through another parking lot. I then took a hard right and went up another steep climb, not on dirt. Many people were off their bike immediately. But I got right behind another rider and we both rode 3/4 of the hill, passing many people. I was feeling really good and quite impressed with myslef - this would be shortlived. Pushed the bike for a little bit, then jumped back on.

The trail went through some fields before diving back into the woods for some single track. Again the preride paid off as there were a number of logs and small bridge/ramps to go over. I got through this section pretty quickly and had a nice pace going. And then... down I went. Trying to ride over some roots that slanted from right to left down the incline of the hill, my bike just slid right off. I jumped back up, but about four people rode past me. Back on the bike, I continued on.

Unfortuantely I slipped about a half dozen more times, each time falling and letting racers go past me. I was hoping that I would be able to pass some riders soon. Then I saw a rider off his bike. He was in one of the "gulley" that we had to ride through. These gulleys basically went down steep into where small streams were coming off the hilltops. We then had to make a sharp turn and quickly back up a short steep climb. Many peope were mis-negotiating the gulley, myself included. As I passed the rider, I asked if he was ok. He said his day was one, he had broken his seatpost. He was stading there with seat in hand. I thought what a horrible thing, just start your race and within the first five miles your race day was done. Later in the race, I would wish that I could've been that guy.

The good news: with my new stem my back problems were rather minimal. The bad news: I continued to slip, slide, and wreck on the slippery roots. Each time, riders would go by. The first lap was about 10-12 miles long, but it was feeling as if it were 50 miles. The single track just kept going and going. About mile 7, I had an epiphany. The reason I was slipping so much was probably because I had too much air in my tires. The high pressure was allowing me to ride faster on the smooth fast sections, but unfortunately there weren't a lot of those sections. I pulled over and let some air out of the tires. The roots were not much of a problem after that. Hard lesson learned.

As the race continued, I rarely saw a rider. Luckily that meant no one was passing me, but I was not catching up to anyone. Finally I head downhill into a clearing and see the boy scouts there with water. I didn't really need the water as I had pre-hydrated the last two days, but it at least looked as if the scouts weren't packing up to leave, so I knew I wasn't the last one to go through.

Quickly the trail headed back into the woods and up a very steep hill. Exhausted, I pushed my bike to the top. I then jumped back on my bike and continued on. The trail continued to go on forever. Occasionally I thought I had gotten on the wrong trail, but I'd see the markers and realize I was still on track. Several times I had to get off my bike to push over logs or up steep inclines. Twice I got really light-headed from the exertion that the course demanded.

Finally! I caught up to another rider. I had seen him way off in the distance, and finally passed him. He looked as if he were about to collapse. I knew exactly how he felt.

I started seeing people on the race course watching for riders. I knew I must be at the end of the first lap. I descended a little technical section which dumped me on the finish line chute. I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, I should've ended up back near the original parking lot to do my second lap. I rode to the finish line and told one of the judges. He looked at his watch. I'm not sure you have time to do the second lap, he informed me. I checked my stopwatch. It had take my 1:45 to do the first 10 miles. I had 8 more miles to go, which would've taken me another hour and a half (perhaps two hours as my pace had dropped significantly). With the advice of the race official, I decided to end my race right there.

I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't complete the race, but there were many factors: my pace had dropped quite a bit (I realized later this was due to all of the early wrecks, they had taken so much out of me, but I hadn't realized it), it was starting to rain, it was getting late in the afternoon and I still had a long ride home, and I had gotten lightheaded twice. I think it was the smart choice, but it didn't prevent me from being disappointed.

Lessons learned. I need to get a new floor pump so that I can tell what my tire pressure is. On slick days I need to run lower pressure to increase my tire traction. Wrecks take a lot out of you, physically. Even though I never really got hurt from the spills, my energy had been sapped. I need to ride more intervals. I have the endurance to ride the miles, but I don't have the leg power to keep a fast pace. I really belong in beginner division, but I am glad I'm in sport, it's forcing me to ride harder than I would no my own.

My real goal are the races coming in the fall. So I need to take all of these early lessons, and apply them to the month of mud series.

Anyway, the race series in W.V. has been a blast. Very nice people, races are well-organized and run efficiently, and I have learned a tremendous amount.

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