Sunday, April 22, 2007
13th place Sport Masters - 1:55.06 - 15.5 miles
The Wednesday before the race, I take a leisurely road ride. I hit some gravel on the side of the road and my bike is swept out from under me. My left leg goes down by reflex and I feel my knee twist on impact. Unbelievable.
I was able to pedal home with some pain. Knee swelled up, as I knew it would. All this training over the winter, and I sprain my knee right before one of my favorite races. Well, ice, ibuprofin, and keeping it raised the rest of the week helps quite a bit. But the knee is still swollen on Sunday morning, but not much pain. I decide to go to Big Bear to race.
I pull in Sunday morning, and register. Just like the year before, I overhear they will move the start time from 11:30 to 12:00. Not sure why they don't announce it to everyone immediately. I go for my warm up ride and meet up with some other racers. On the way back I do some full intensity sprints. All warmed up. I get to the start line to hear the pre-race instructions.
I then also realize that I have no back brakes! The lever goes down to the handlebar. I figure the line needs bleeding. No time for that. I decide to ride with no back brakes and a swollen knee. I figure at least I'll get a ride in. The weather's great and I love the trail.
Experts are released, and all of us sport riders immediately afterwards. We ride about a mile or so on the road, then turn right on to a fire road for another mile. This really helps spread out the field some. Sport riders take a left into the single track, the experts continue on.
This year the rerouted the beginner riders, so there's not a huge jam up as I enter the single track. My knee is feeling good, and I'm finding I don't need the rear brakes much. I didn't get the fastest start off the starting line, but it was nice and steady. I see the first hill in front of me. I remember last year having to walk this hill. This year I'm able to ride it!! I pass about half a dozen riders on this section. Not sure what class they're in though.
This hill leads into two other hills, and I think I made it up all of it. I make it to the top of the ridge, and try to catch the riders way in front of me. In no time at all I arrive at the weird bridge that you have to ride up and over. Last year, I felt like it took forever to get here. I exit the bridge and turn left and don't' see the trail. I ask the volunteer there if I'm going the right way, and he points me to the correct trail. Hmm, he might have volunteered that information.
I head down the first real downhill section. I'm making good time with only the front brakes surprisingly. Make it pretty well through the mud swamp at the bottom, do pretty well clearing slick rocks up and out of the mud, but then rear tire slips and I step off the pedal. A female rider then passes me, just like last year. Very ironic.
Next enter into a section of ups and downs. I remember last year not riding up all of them, and having to rest my back at the top of each one. This year I ride up every one of them, and though my back hurts a bit, it's not nearly as bad as last year, and so I don't have to waste time stretching my back!
The other great thing? I'm passing riders, riders are passing me. Yeah, this is what racing is supposed to be like, but last year I don't think I even saw anyone once I got 3 miles into the race.
I make it up to the first water station and head in to the pine forest section. I realize I have expert riders passing me. The nice thing? Last year I got to this section so late that all of the expert riders had rejoined the loop before me and never saw one of them.
At this point I'm passing riders that are completely bonked. Not sure if they're in my class, but it's nice to see my pace worked out well.
Enter in to the long decent that eventually leads to the finish line. Clean most of it with only the front brake, but at a much slower speed than I'd like. There are two sections where it's safer to just walk my bike down. Wasted some time, but at least no wrecks.
Exit the creek bed and onto a fire road. Still in the midst of a lot of riders, this is much more fun! Last big downhill, and I have to walk my bike down a steep hill to the dam, more time wasted. After a few miles I see the finish line, and there are actually still people there watching us finish, lol. As I enter the final climb, my chain drops off. A rider catches and passes me. I get the chain on and finish right behind him. Luckily not in my class.
Well, I finish in 13th place, and easily could've been in 10th place with brakes. Ah well, at least no dnf. Finished in time of 1:55, last year on the same course it took me 2:11. It's nice to see the training plan pay off. I had lost 7 pounds over the winter, rode a lot on the stationary, figured out a stretch to help my sciatic nerve, and tweaked my bike fit to be more efficient.
What a fun race!!!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
3:04 - 17 miles - 13th place
So a northeaster decides to blow it's way up through West Virginia, and dump loads of rain for days on Parkersburg. For some unknown reason, I wake up on the morning of the race and decide to go anyway.
After a three hour drive, I arrive at Mountwood Park. During the last part of the drive, the rain started again. It was 45 degrees, cold, rainy, miserable - the perfect weather for hypothermia. Resgistered for the race, unfortunately stood in line for 45 minutes getting soaked. Consequently, no real time to warm up. Threw on my gortex jacket and made my way to the start line.
I was in the fourth group released (sport masters 45+). The race headed up a gravel road for quite a while in an effort to spread the group out some. Headed into the single track to find some of the muddiest riding I've ever done. I can only guess the 60-75 riders released before me had a better trail than I did.
The first part of the race, about 6 miles was on one side of the ridge. We then had to cross back over the main road to the other side of the race course. The starter guessed that the loop was about 14 miles total. I was soon to find out he was wrong.
The first six miles went pretty well. I passed some people, some passed me. The second "half" of the ride was rather miserable. Very muddy trails, which turned my bike basically into a single speed. Every time I tried to shift on the chain rings, the chain would drop off. So I stayed in the middle chain ring the rest of the race. I could get about 3 gears on the rear cog. Every hill I came to, I pretty much had to walk my bike up it.
One woman caught me. She had been gaining on me for miles. Tried to hold her off, she never rode really fast, but never had to get off her bike. She could make it up many more hills than me and was just steady. I learned something from it.
Over the next hour, I finally caught back up to her. More for the fact that she got tired, not due to my biking prowess. We pretty much finished the race together. At least I had someone to talk to. Passed another young woman who looked like she was at the end of her rope. I asked if she was okay, she said she was starving. I gave her a GU, it made her day. Saw her at the end of the race, she looked completely different. Her eyes weren't dulled, she had some energy back in her. She said I saved her life.
The end of the race had us crossing a creek, like I need to be more wet. Got to the finish line and had to stop for them to take the ticket from my back. My legs started cramping really bad. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to drop over right there, not able to straighten my legs.
It took me three hours to finish the race. It was not 14 but 17 miles, and those last three miles were killers. In the end I'm glad I did it. It was quite the experience. I finished near the end of my class, but really could have been three places better had my rear brake not gone out near the end. I would love to go back to Mountwood in some dry weather, the course would be great I bet.