Thursday, May 15, 2008

Maximus Rockimus

Tim Dougherty, his friend Sean and I drove out to Michaux State Forest near Gettysburg PA Saturday evening (Yeah, the race was back on May 4th). Set up the tent and was asleep by 9. Awake by 6:30 (slept like a rock) and got ready for the race. Very foggy but the sun was out around 7:30. Race start at 9. Huge singlespeed field.

This race was 50miles and 48miles was singletrack and nothing but rock gardens. It destroys you and destroys your equipment (typically tires). Some of the singletrack was new so it was soft and slow-going. Not to mention a lot of mud from the rains. 29inch wheels are the name of the game. Quite a few people running them and it helps with the rocks.

Got a good start. Top 10 singlespeed. Saw Harlan on the side fixing a flat early on. That wasn't a good sight. Shortly later he's passing me trying to get back into the geared field (turns out he flatted twice and still took 5th). I had a flat rear tire around mile 10. Hole in the tread and the tire sealant wouldn't seal. Had to pull off and put a tube in my very muddy rear tire (there's a bunch of mud in my tire too). Watched most of the singlespeed field pass me.

Tire is fixed and I'm back on the bike picking people off. Felt good and rode hard. Caught up to Buddy and rode with him for a bit. He had a nice pace going so I tagged along with him. Could keep up on the climbs but he, and his suspension fork, would pull away on the descents. Damn rigid fork holding me back. I recall at some point saying "Buddy, you're killing me!" in an act of frustration in not being able to hold on his wheel. We kept on catching up to people and passing them. This felt great. At one point we came into this big sweeping turn that ended in a very short and steep climb. Buddy punched it and I was in the 'moment' and did the same. We both pulled from deep to get up that climb. In addition to us riding it there were quite a few geared and singlespeeders walking up it. Got to the top and kept on going. What a reward. We both were like "We're going to pay for that later."

Fast forward: More rocky trails. A long rocky descent in which Buddy pulled away from me. I knew at some point we have to go up this long and steep grassy climb. I forgot how close it was so I did my best to not ride too hard knowing I'd need the energy to get up this climb. A few more miles later I rolled up onto it and also caught back up to Buddy. Turns out the climb was in the sun which just added to the suffering. My goal was to ride as much of it as possible knowing I could make up some time here. Lots of people backed off and resorted to walking. I rode as much as I could and would walk a few feet. Then back onto the bike for a bit. On the bike, off the bike, on the bike, off the bike. Typical game I play. Luckily the times on the bike were greater than off the bike.

Got to the top and rolled into the 3rd aid station. Ruben refilled my camelbag. I quickly realized I'm behind the 8-ball with fluid intake for my camelbag was relatively full. Also asked Ruben how far up Tim was. He said word on the trail was Tim busted a bunch of spokes in a wheel for he hasn't passed through the 25mile aid station yet. Not good. About a minute passes and I'm back on the bike and off to find more people to pass.

A huge headache set in around somewhere between mile 30 and 35. I could thank dehydration for that. My lower back was also on fire from poor posture. I had the strength in my legs but the lower back pain and headache were messing with me. Felt as if I couldn't even turn the pedals over. Those miles were very slow. Lots of walking some sections I normally could ride. I felt miserable. Drank and ate more and was trying to drink a lot to compensate. Not a good idea. Now my stomach is somewhat
bloated. The valley were in ended with a ride up a running creek to a steep climb out of the creek. I walked most of the creek thinking "What at they doing sending us up a creek with water beyond my ankles?".

Got onto the steep climb and tried to ignore the headache and was able to ride out of the valley. At the top it turned onto a fire road and I found a pace I could ride and try to recover. I'm now starting to feel better and most people near me are starting to feel horrible so I'm back to passing some people (no singlespeeders though). My legs felt good (no cramping) but my headache persisted. I eventually saw a sign that said "39ish" so I knew I was getting closer. Most of the course was different from last year so I really didn't have a clue as to where I was. I just knew I'm getting close to 5hours in and based off my time from last year (6hours 4mins) I figured I'm almost to the finish.

Went down a very tight descent with lots of switchbacks. So steep I basically had the wheels locked and was sliding down the trail. Another singlespeeder caught up to me and was tailing me down the hill. I recall him asking me where the next aid station is for his bottles were empty. We came out onto some flowing singletrack with hardly any rocks (wow, a rare sight) and pushed it trying to get away from this guy knowing I had water and felt good and he was slowly loosing it. I drank and ate some more to fend off any unwanted cramping while trying to stay ahead of this guy. Couldn't quite
shake him but the last aid station saved me. He stopped and I kept on going knowing I had some water and we were told we're 3 miles to the finish (albeit uphill).

I gave it everything I had to get up that hill. Thank goodness it was undulating doubletrack that wasn't too technical. My legs hurt but there was no cramping. Eventually saw the finish line so I pedaled like mad and finished in 5hr 38mins. Took 17th place in the singlespeed field. Not bad! The winning singlespeed (Topher) was within an hour from me so I was excited to see I didn't slip too far back. I was faster than last year (5:45 vs 6:04) and with a flat tire and nasty headache so I'm excited about that.

All in all, I beat myself up and somehow survived. Happy with my performance (it is still early in the season) but need to better gauge consumption with my camelbag. I guess I'm paranoid I'll come up empty in a spot of the course where I really need to drink. Water bottles are pointless on terrain like that for I'll just loose them with all the rocks (I started with one as a back-up but lost it within the first 5 miles).


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