Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ups and Downs

So the last week has been a bit of a roller coaster, in every way. Last Friday, my brother and I saw the world's worst baseball team's home opener, although I did get this:

The best thing coming out of CitiField this year ...

So, even though they lost to the former worst team in baseball, it wasn't a total loss. Obviously.

Then Saturday morning, since I was already up in NY, I got up early to head out and pre-ride the Singlespeed-A-Palooza course. It was a great ride, mainly because I was very kindly allowed to poach on a few of the guy's pre-ride for the first half of the course. Once I was on my own, however, things came off the rails. I blame my complete lack of navigational skills, but instead of a 12 mile, 1 lap pre-ride of the course, I ended up with a 20 mile, clusterfuck semi-course ride plus. It wasn't a big deal -- conditions were pretty dry, and it's a really cool place:

I felt almost like I visited all of this.

On my way back

After I got back to the car, I was left to ponder my own inability to find my way around the course ...

"It's not like I didn't have a map ..."

On the drive home, I sampled some of New York's finest traffic ...

Stop ... go ... repeat ...

So I get home (finally) and have to get ready for the Bike Line Spring Fair Hill Race, the first XC race on the Mid-Atlantic Super Series calendar. I headed down on Sunday and ... well ... let me put it this way: for the past five years, I've been an enduro racer. A fourteen mile race is not an enduro race. 'Nuff said. Ol' 1speed got his ass handed to him. I cooked my right leg going up a short climb trying to pass a racer from another class and cramped severely going into the second lap. I also didn't drink enough. All things considered, I got what I deserved.

But it wasn't exactly the best thing to happen prior to the first target race of the year. This SInglespeed-A-Palooza had been gaining momentum in my mind all winter, since I found out from some of the MTBNJ guys that's it's a total rock star event. I didn't want to shit the bed the first time I showed up for it, so I trained to it. Fair Hill was supposed to be wmy final warm-up, but instead it gave me serious doubts about my fitness. I spent the hole week wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. That may sound silly, considering I've raced up to eight hours on my singlespeed before. But those were all enduros, and I always reigned in my pace to accommodate that fact. This was a regular race where I expected everyone to hammer. So I spent the week thinking it was going to more or less kill me. I figured I'd screw up the nutrition (confession: I have done a pretty good job the last few years of dialing in my nutritional needs for multi-hour races, but I still regularly cramp in "regular distance" races -- geared or singlespeed) or worse, just get my ass handed to me again, only this time for 27 miles. Not cool. I was convinced I would get destroyed all week.

And then ... rain ...

Biblical, ceaseless, torrential rain. All day Saturday. I had made plans to drive up Saturday (it's a 3+ hour drive, and the race started at 9 a.m. -- I really didn't want to drive up at 4 a.m.) The drive was a nightmare -- traffic was awful, I couldn't see ten feet in front of me, and it seemed to rain harder the farther north I went. Suddenly, I was not excited about this race at all. To be honest, I was kind of dreading it when I arrived in NY last night. To call last night the low point of my week would be fair.

So I wake up this morning, get some breakfast at the hotel, and head over to the venue convinced I am signing my own death warrant. I had only one plan -- to drink at least three full bottles and eat every chance I got. I knew the conditions would be rough, but I just wanted to keep my body from falling apart.

And it worked! The course was muddier, wetter and just generally more awful then I could possibly have imagined. It was the wettest race I've ever been a part of. There were entire sections where the trail was completely under water -- as much as a foot and a half or so in some spots. In the first few miles of the trail after the prologue section, there was an extended section of soupy mud that was so bad by the second lap that I'll bet I was turning maybe 20 rpms max through it. And every time I hit the water section, I basically gave myself a calonic -- jets of water up off my rear wheel right up through my chamois. It was a relentlessly messy ride. And to top it off, I completely lost my brakes by mid-way through the second lap. By the end of the race, I had to run the downhills! But none of that mattered ultimately. For some reason, I really felt good all day and finished 6th. I stuck to my plan, had fun with the mess, and just enjoyed the race.

Self-portrait of a half-man, half-mud creature

After the race: filthy but happy

So that's the story. One Singlespeed-A-Palooza in the books. Had a great time, despite my early concerns and doubts. I'm not crazy -- I know this stuff isn't life and death, it's a silly past-time that doesn't carry the weight of real hardship. And there are a million stories in the news every day that bear witness to that fact. And I don't take it so seriously that it disrupts the rest of my life when I have aday like last Sunday. Still, I do put a lot of time into training, and it's frustrating when it doesn't work. And when it doesn't work just one week before a race I target for the year, well ... that tends to get into your head. But even when that happens, I seem to always manage to have fun out there, and I thnk that's what really brings me back again and again, regardless of my results. This was an awesome event and would have been if I finished first or DFL (in fact, DFL would have gotten me a case of beer and a DFL trophy, so that really would have been great.) This was a great event because Darkhorse Cycles can put together one hell of a race. Despite the terrible weather, everyone seemed to have fun. The other riders I had the chance to talk to were all really cool, and the whole vibe was totally chill. I had a great time. This is my first time at a Darkhorse event, but it won't be my last. Those guys did a great job and I will be more than happy to support and participate in their events in the future! Thanks, DH!

Post-race nutritional replenishment!

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