Monday, May 08, 2006

Dirty Spokes - 12 hours at Fort Yargo

Raced 12 hours at Fort Yargo Saturday.

Weather turned out better than I expected. The rain held off and it was sunny and warm all day. The course was a little slippery from rain earlier in the week but not too bad.

It was really cool to see Tinker Juarez there. Before the race people were taking pictures with him and shaking his hand. I really enjoyed being passed by Tinker. He was always really nice and said something encouraging. I want a jersey that says "I got passed by Tinker Juarez".

The race started with a parade lap on a dirt road through the campground. I started in the middle of the pack and rode conservatively.

Everything was going good till we hit the singletrack. I didn't feel very comfortable on my bike. I almost fell down 10 times. I was sliding out in turns and skidding over roots. I wasn't really going that fast, I think I was just nervous. I tried to talk to myself and calm myself down. It helped a little bit but not completely.

There were so many riders on the trail. It was asses and elbows for the first hour. The pace was probably a little faster than I wanted to go. Whenever there is group of people riding my wheel, I have a hard time going my own pace. I don't like holding all those people up.

Finally we got to the big hill and people really started to spread out. I was relieved to finally get some breathing room, but I also started thinking about having to climb this hill multiple times.

My girlfriend and my best friend were waiting for me at the start/finish line. They handed me a new bottle, and I was able to keep riding without stopping. I think this saved me a ton of time. I was very lucky to have them with me.

The course started to dry out on the second lap, and I started to feel more comfortable. I also think being a little tired from the first lap helped. I focused on keeping a good tension in my legs. I reminding myself over and over again and forced out any other thoughts that would distract me.

After about 4 hours I started to get nauseous. My stomach felt like it was the verge of cramping. When I was going downhill the bumps would cause my stomach to shake and make me feel like I was going to throw up. I ended up braking on the downhills so that it wasn't so bumpy. This wasn't great for my time but I was just hoping to finish at this point.

I did a lot of research and trial and error and decided the best way to fuel for this race was to use a food replacement drink made by Hammer Nutrition. The one drawback I found with using this drink is that in training I found it would make my stomach hurt every once in awhile. The first time it happened I thought it was because I had gulped down too much drink at once. When it started to hurt I tried to remember if I gulped any drink but I don't remember doing that so I decided it must being something else causing the stomach problems.

I decided to make my drink a little thinner thinking maybe my stomach was getting too much food and not enough water. Luckily my friend had run down the trail to see if I needed anything. I told him to thin out my drink. He took a short cut back to the start finish line, and my thinned out drink was waiting for me at the start/finish line. Now that is service.

The thinned out drink helped a little but not enough. The next time around I told my friend to give me a bottle of water and a bottle of drink. I drank the whole bottle of water before I started on the drink. By the end of my 5th lap I started to feel a little better. I asked my pit crew to keep giving me both water and drink bottles for the rest of the race.

By the time I hit my seventh lap I was feeling really good. I thought I had licked the nutrition problem. My stomach felt great. My energy felt great. My legs felt great. I turned in one of my fastest laps.

Coming into the pits for the start of my 8th lap, I had planned to put on my lights, put on my vest, and oil my chain. I talked about this with my team before the race and I thought we were on the same page. As I rode across the line, I couldn't find my pit crew. Finally I spotted my girlfriend, and I rode around the barrier to try and get to her.

Once I rode around the barrier I noticed she was on the other side of this huge mound of dirt that I could not ride across. She took off running to try and bring my light to me. Once she got there, she handed me my helmet with the light attached, but the battery was missing. So she ran back across the mound to get it while I put my helmet and vest on. When she got back, I hooked up my battery and off I went.

I didn't get to oil my chain, but all in all it really wasn't a huge loss in time. I was only in the pits a couple minutes. At the time though it seemed like an eternity. I kept going over and over in my head what went wrong. Even though I know now it wasn't fair of me to feel this way, at the time I was pretty pissed. It took me about 45 minutes to calm myself down.

Finally I realized how lucky I was to have a pit crew at all. I thought about how many minutes they saved me on all the other pit stops, and how they adjusted my drink concentration and saved me by giving me water as well as drink. I felt better after that and went back to focusing on the race.

While I was busy over analyzing my last pit stop, my bike developed a problem. Turns out my rear brake line got wrapped around my suspension linkage. This caused my rear brake to compress and drag against my rotor. The whole time I could feel like that it was much harder to pedal. I thought I was hitting one of those false walls I had in training. So I just tried to focus and power through it. I blamed my lack of focus on my pit stop.

Well turns out it wasn't a false wall, I was actually riding with my rear brake 75% engaged for at least half of lap. I am also not sure my training false wall were real either since I learned last week that my trainer is malfunctioning and needs to be sent back for repairs. Finally I got off my bike and spent several minutes figuring out what was wrong and adjusting the cables so it wouldn't happen again.

The eighth lap was definitely my slowest/hardest lap. I am not sure what caused it. It could have been that I let myself get so upset over my pit stop. It could have been that I was drinking more water and less energy drink and I just ran low on calories. It could have been that I rode for more than a half a lap with my rear brake on. It could have been that it was getting dark and harder to see. It could have been a mental let down since I had set a goal for 8 laps and I was quickly approaching that goal. Or it could be something simple like I just got tired. I don't know for sure.

Finally I got to the last lap, my pit crew did a great job of motivating me to finish strong. I rode the best I could but my legs had trouble on the climbs. I ended up walking at least 4 times. I kept telling myself that if I could just get to this section by this time then I will make the cutoff.

Somehow I kept it together and as I made my way to the final climb, I saw this girl talking on her cell phone. I couldn't imagine how anyone could have the energy or time to stop and take phone calls at this point in this race. So I slowed down and listened to what she was saying.

Apparently her light malfunctioned and she was calling her husband to come get her. I turned back around and offered her my handlebar light. After some back and forth with her husband she accepted. I took off my light and put it on her bike.

The handle bar light is really small light that was meant to be used for a commuter but doesn't really give enough light to ride on a trail. If she would follow close enough to someone to share their light though, she would probably have just enough light to get her back. She seemed to understand this without me telling her, and she followed me half way up the big climb. At this point, another rider passed. I told her she should probably follow him because I was tired and would be walking the rest of this hill.

She took off after him, and I had a nice walk. 5-10 minutes later I see her talking on her cell phone again. I slow down and look at her, but she keeps talking. So I keep pedaling slowly waiting to see if she will latch back on. 30 seconds later she is back on and asks if she can ride the rest of the way with me. I say sure as long as she doesn't mind going slow. She happily agrees.

Besides one minor fall on the last section she had no problems keeping up with me and I rode my normal pace. Having her talk to me and just having someone behind me probably actually helped me go faster. I think the time I gained by riding with her more than made up for the time I spent swapping the light onto her handlebars. Plus it made me feel good that I wasn't so wrapped up in the race that I wouldn't stop to help someone.

Finally I saw the finish line, and I did my best to sprint it out. My pit crew was there to congratulate me and refuel me with recovery drink and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I got a little award for third place in my class and had lots of people cheer for me. It felt really good.