Tuesday, August 03, 2010

darkhorse 40: dark pain cave... with light?

This year's Darkhorse 40 was promising, at the beginning...

I have ridden some since my bike crash in late June. Okay, by some I mean a little: three 2hr road rides and two mountain bike rides. I felt strong on these rides except the 3hr mtb ride Sean took me one. I cracked shortly after hour 2. While I knew I had a solid 2hr base my mind fooled me again with this year's 40.

Rested a bit on Saturday and made sure I stayed hydrated. This year the temperatures wouldn't climb as high as they did last year (upper 90s last year). Opted for my 34x18 has felt good at Stewart the past couple of times I've been there. Gave my new Niner crabon fork a shot. A new addition to help reduce bike weight for the Breck Epic. Strange riding rigid again but I have gotten used to it.

This year all the singlespeeders were in one category. That meant a field of almost 60 racers! The course was back to a two lap format totaling 40miles. A new start/finish location (which later proved to be a success) resulted in a slightly downhill start. We had a downhill start in the first annual Singlespeed-A-Polooza in 2009 and I remember watching Monte pedaling away from us as we were all maxed out and coasting. I was worried we'd get dropped by all the pro geared guys. Luckily for us Mike was thinking and there was no mass start but each start was by category with a 3minute gap between groups.

My plan was to ride consistent and not blow up. Try not to start fast but at a pace I knew I could sustain for 3.5 to 4hrs. Warm up felt good. I rode around with James and Elk here and there and lined up on the front row of the starting line. Ed was there too. Good to see him again. Monte, James and Stine decided to duke it out in the Pro/Open class with their singlespeeds so they were not gracing us with their appearances this year. Hawaiian Mike sent us off and we immediately filed out into a bit of a train. Ed took the lead with me right behind him... coasting... as he was pedaling like mad. In fact, I coasted the entire start all the way to the gravel road as evidence in this video Ginger shot.

Figured it was a good way to start; not use up a ton of energy. Unfortunately this got me into the singletrack within the top five spots. Unfortunately this saw me riding quite fast. What happened to me starting at a decent pace and maintaining said pace throughout the race? Yes, this is where my plans fell apart in a major way. I got caught up in the start fast situation and since I felt good riding at this pace I kept on it. So much that when we got to around mile 6.5 and had to slug it up that gravel road climb (which makes its way into every DH race) I came from behind and passed Ed and another guy like they were standing still.

"What the hell are you doing, Doug? This isn't a 1hr race!"

Started going through my mind so I backed off my pace a bit and let a few people past me. I forced myself to focus on riding smooth and trying not to lay on the brakes coming into a turn and accelerate like mad going out of a turn. This worked until we had a sharp left turn in a grassy field (around mile 9). I came into it a bit too hot and my tires didn't like the grass and bike slid out from under me. Not a big deal as I slid on my left leg. Right back up and on the bike shaking it off.

"Okay, slow down some more."

Felt better and kept on going. Passed the beer hand-off around mile 13 or so (and declined a beverage). By mile 18 or so I was starting to feel the effects of riding such a quick pace as my legs started feeling heavy and slowed down a bit.

Came across the start/finish for the 2nd lap and got two new bottles from Ginger. I forget the time, perhaps 1hr 15/20mins? Got going on the 2nd lap and every little incline had its effect on me. It caused me to slow down tremendously to fight off the cramps. My stomach was also in a bit of a knot. I'd have good sections where I could hold my own on the terrain and I'd have bad sections where I had nothing in me and had to get off and walk/run. I watched myself quickly fall back further and further from the top 10 singlespeed.

I was wrestling the option of DNFing or continuing the race. Back and forth I went in my head as I pedaled through another or so on the trail. Pick up pace and enjoy the ride/trail and have the thoughts of continuing. Turn the corner to a short punchy incline and my legs would say no and I'd think about bailing. Eventually I decided to ignore the 'race' and just ride my bike the rest of the lap. I was just about halfway through the 2nd and final lap so what's another 10miles?

"Forget about time and position. Just turn those pedals and do your best damage control with the fatigue and heavy legs."

If my legs would completely lock up then I was in serious trouble so I tried not to get to that point.

That is exactly what I did. Ate more and drank a bit while pulling back on intensity when the cramps would get worse. This allowed me to ride most of the remainder of the course but it came at the cost of sitting on the side of the trail twice to let my legs feel better. I took a positive attitude to sitting trailside and actually had a smile despite my legs not wanting to work too well. I did stop at that beer stop for an ice cold PBR even though my stomach was in a knot. That cold beer felt great.

Meanwhile, three and a half hours have come and gone and the top leaders are starting to trickle in. Hawaiian Mike as well as a few other people kept asking Ginger where I was. She had no clue and was starting to get worried.

Almost four hours from when I started I come rolling across the finish line.... with my head down.

I think it was Monte asking me if I was okay and I mumbled something along the lines of


Mike from Niner came over with a cold bottle of water and poured it down my neck. Ginger handed me another bottle to drink while I stood there with a bit of a dazed look. That dazed look quickly disappeared once I realized my body felt fine as long as I didn't make any sudden moves with my bike (ie: getting off the bike quickly).

"This is a first, finishing the DH40 without leg lock-out due to cramping and a dehydration headache. Despite the mid-pack finish I'm a bit stoked."

I pedaled over and chatted a bit with Monte about my lackluster performance. He gave me some pointers to help me for next year and other types of races like this (where you're on the gas 100% of the time). Thanks Monte. We'll see what I can do.

The official results have me at:

3hour 53minutes
33rd place out of 64

Wait a second.. I finished in 4hours flat last year and rode my ass off the entire race last year. Was this year that much quicker? Judging by the top singlespeeders and pros I would have to say yes. That negates my thought of I had a better time this year despite all my issues.

Anyway. Mid-pack and a significantly slowed pace on the 2nd lap. There's still some positive in there. I rode my bike 4hours and 40miles. As you can tell from my training regimen, I am all over the place with fitness seeing as I can duke it out with some top guys across 7 days of gnarly PA terrain and then do a local event and get my ass handed to me. I still enjoy it and it puts a smile onto my face knowing I ride once, maybe twice a week and can still compete at this level.

Sometime after I finished the race and got cleaned up we grabbed some great food from the post-race bbq and chatted with Mike from Niner and George from Bike29. This bbq comes in there with what Chris Scott provides at his 100milers (which are regarded as great times). Yet we rode a fraction of that in Stewart. This is why I like coming back to George and Mike's events. They are well organized, challenging (on a different level than I'm used to) and fun. After all, aren't we out there for the fun?

Back to finishing my packing. I am leaving in a few short days for the drive out to Colorado. Plan is to do some biking and acclimation to 9,000ft plus before the six day Breckenridge Stage Race (aka: Breck Epic).


Blogger CB2 said...

Have a great trip and race in CO.
I think you have your priorities straight; this is supposed to be fun!

8/10/2010 8:03 AM  
Blogger Rigidnsingle said...

The thing with the 40... It's not a endurance race...

I'ts a short track followed immediately by a xc race...

Painfull to say the least...

8/10/2010 10:02 AM  

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