Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Mile Run MTB Race

Bike the Wilds point series - 18.5 miles - 3:22 (you read that right)9th place masters

Two Mile Run marked the fourth race in the Bike the Wilds point series. The training I did for this one? Went on vacation for two weeks, came back home got in two lack-luster rides in the ridiculous humidity we've been having, and ate a lot. Not a training regimen I would recommend to the timid. Oh yeah, and add to my lack of recent training: 90 degree temperatures with an even higher humidity level.

I arrived at Two Mile Run park, and got settled in. Things seemed well-organized, and sooner than I was ready for, we were lined up for a 100 yard dash to retrieve our bikes. As we started running, I kept it at an easy jog. I've been to too many 24 hour races where the first racer blows up their legs in these kinds of starts.

My strategy worked out fine, I passed a lot of people on the first hill. I'm sure their heart rates were skyrocketing, as cyclists aren't usually know for their running prowess.

The double track hill finally turned into the woods for some nice singletrack. I continued to pass people here, thought not much room for passing. Soon, while pushing my bike up a hill in some serious racer congestion, I heard a bunch of yells of, "rider back!" I glanced back and saw a bunch of racers I knew to be the normal race leaders come flying up to us. Asked one of the guys if they had gotten lost, and he answered in the affirmative.

Seeing racers lost brought back to memory my last race where I was riding strong, got lost, and received a DNF (even though I put in more miles than most participants).

You see once you've been lost in a race, it messes with your head a bit. In any race thereafter, you find yourself looking constantly for markers. And if you don't see one every ten feet, you start to panic. Even when you do see all the racer markers, you start wondering if somehow you've taken a wrong turn and are going on the course in reverse, or just riding in big circles.

All of this was in my head while I continued to race. The course was good and bad. A lot of good single track, and tons of course markings. On the other hand, the course marking were overdone in certain areas, and much too infrequent, or just plain confusing in other areas. More on that later.

I was racing surprsingly well for the first eight or so miles. Then my legs started feeling the two and a half weeks off the bike. Kept up my hydration, popped enurolyte tablets like they were candy, and put down shots of gel as I could. Mentally I felt good, but my legs were heavy. I found myself walking a lot of hills that I would normally ride.

The good news though was, even though I had heavy legs and the heat and humidity were ruthless, I was able to just keep riding. I figured I would finish the race in about 2:30 - 2:45. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate my Garmin GPS, so I wasn't sure how many miles I had put in, but I knew according to my watch that I was not going to make my normal time.

This is where the getting lost at other races comes in. After I put in over two hours, I started doubting myself a lot, wondering if I was still riding the course in the right direction. Luckily I ran into a couple of riders occasionally, which helped me quite a bit.

It's funny how in a race, after the initial furied start, you just seem to see the same people for most of the race. And this race was no different. It seemed that I passed and was passed by three other riders for mile after mile. Two of the guys seemed that they could've been in my class, but I wasn't really sure. In fact, I believe one of the guys short-cutted the course. I remember clearly passing him, having chased him down for quite a while, and then miles later there he was in front of me. Did he cheat? Did he get confused at an intersection? Was he just trying to survive? I'm going with option three. I really hope he wasn't cheating, and for as slow as I was going, I passed him easily.

Towards the end of the race, there were three specific spots where the flagging was really confusing. Oh yeah, this is where I also located the ground bees nest. A lot of us were stung, and my sting was still hurting three days later.

Anyway, I figured out my way to the finish line with a horribly bad time. Wish I had had my gps to see really how many miles I put in. They either really underestimated the mileage, or maybe I got off track for a while, or maybe my legs were just made of cement.

Regardless, a bunch of people cheered as I finished. I really appreciated that. I made it back to the van, grabbed ice water and cold oranges and collapsed in my camp chair till the nausea passed.

Went on the race site the other day to see how my finish compared to everyone's (and to see if there were a lot of dnf's) only to see there was some type of controversy and they're thinking things through before the post results. I'm kind of in the dark as to the specific incident, but it will be interesting to see the fallout.

One more race left to the point series. Not sure if I'll be going, it will mostly come down to whether I'm in the top ten or not.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shannock Valley MTB Race

15 miles (too many) and a DNF (more on this in a bit)

This was the third race in the Bike the Wilds race series. The race was to be about 12 miles long - but not the way I race.

I pulled in to the lot and talked to a couple of guys that had raced the course before. They said lots of climbing, and they were absolutely right. Lined up in the town of Rural Valley, and off we went right on time.

The race starts off on the road and quickly heads uphill. Unfortunately, the temperature was hovering at about 91 degrees. We probably did over a mile of pavement before hitting some double track, still heading up hill. Quick downhill, then into the woods, more uphill. That was the theme for the day.

Through the initial uphill I had made my way to the front third of the group. I was overheating quickly though. I had half my water bottle gone with in the first three miles. I was not going to have enough water. My other bottle was being used to dump on my head and down my back in an attempt to keep me cool. I felt like I was an iron furnace, just radiating huge amounts of heat. I'm pretty sure I have no ancestry from any hot weather locales. I am not made for hot summer riding - at all.

I was still mostly heading uphill, sometimes in cut fiels out in full view of the sun. Lots of riders walking their bikes up hills. I passed quite a few people on these hills, but also found myself pushing up some hills. I think I could've ridden them, but I'm sure I would have bonked hard.

After about eight miles, I felt like we were finally, slowly, heading back down hill. A couple of riders passed me, and they looked to be in my division. It was hard to tell as this division had a big age range. I chased them for a mile until I passed one of the riders. He made no attempt to stay with me. That left one other rider ahead of me. This was unfortunately my downfall.

We dumped out on to some gravel roads, passed some guy sitting on the side of the road all bloody. Emergency personnel with him, it looked like maybe he got hit by a quad? Not sure.

The rider in front of me was now not far away. I saw him start to turn left where the arrow pointed, but then he came back out on to the gravel road and continued on. I came to the same spot and saw the arrow pointed left, but then I also saw an arrow that pointed straight. No one else was around, and the rider I had been chasing for thirty minutes was riding away on the gravel road. I decided to follow him. This was where my mistake was. It seems someone turned that one arrow to follow the gravel road, not sure if it was kids or what. The worst part was as I continued on the gravel road there were all kinds of race markers pointing up on.

I shortly passed the rider and tried to to put some distance on him. As I was riding though, the trail seemed vaguely familiar. Then after a while I was absolutely sure we were on the same trail as earlier in the day. I came out at a paved road and stopped to wait for the rider behind me. As he came out he said what I had been thinking, that we had taken a wrong turn.

By this point we had put in 13 miles and the race was only to be 12 miles. So we called it a day and headed down the paved road to the finish. In the end I got in 15 miles in 90 degree weather. A great training day, a horrible race day. I really felt like I was going to have a decent finishing time. And the worst part of it all? The rider I chased down, he wasn't even in my class. Ah well, that's racing.

Two more races in the series to go, and we get to drop one race. I guess I know which race I'll be dropping.