Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh-For-Three ...

Photo by PJ Freeman

This past Sunday was the Fair Hill 50, and my recent struggles continued. I've had trouble with the heat this season, a fact that doesn't surprise me given my metabolic issues, but it definitely seems to be getting worse, and I think if there was one thing that I took away from the experience on Sunday, it's that the decision to stop racing series after this year was the right one.

The short story is I DNF'ed. Longer story - it was a disappointing day on several levels - for one, I lost the third place spot in the series (probably fell to fifth or so.) For another, I turned my body inside out just trying to finish (after not finishing the last two years for various reasons) and am still trying to recover now, two days later.

I started out fine -- riding with my friend Mark and another guy, Bill, as sort of a three man train as we picked our way through the back of the Men's Open field. It's tough to pass at Fair Hill because much of the trail is tight single track, but we were able to move pretty smoothly and had  areal nice pace going through the first 15 miles or so. But that's about where my good day ended. Bill pulled around me around this time when I got briefly hung up on a root, but I wasn't able to bridge the gap back to him. Soon after, I told Mark that I was already cramping and that if he needed to pass, he should go because I was going to slow him down. And so he did pass near the bottom of the one big climb, and I was once again unable to hold the wheel.

I had been drinking water and eating regularly, popping three Endurolytes per hour and sipping Zym very 10 minutes or so. I was well-rested from the week prior. And I didn't feel bad on the start. But none of that mattered. My legs cramped in the first 15 miles of a 50 mile race and I spent the next 25+ miles trying to hold it together while my muscles burned out completely. By the time I dropped out, at 43 miles, my legs were so locked up I just couldn't turn my pedals over anymore and my head was foggy. It sucked to quit so close to the end, but I really couldn't keep going without risking serious and possibly permanent injury. And the second lap really was a nightmare -- pure pain from the start. I kept trying to use Jens Voigt's mantra of "shut up legs", but by the end, it would have had to expand to include "shut up legs, arms, back, hands and feet" and that was just too much.

And I think that's really the crux of why this all has to end for me -- I think it's reasonable to expect to suffer a little in races. It's part and parcel of the sport. But I also think there is a limit to the number of things you can battle against. In the past few years, I've been steadily removing elements of control form my races -- I started by going all singlespeed, then I went to rigid singlespeed. And I'm okay with that -- I look at it as a war I'm fighting on three fronts -- I'm fighting the course terrain, I'm fighting the single gear, and I'm fighting the upper-body battle of having no squish. But when I add to that the oppressive heat and humidity, it's just one enemy too many, especially because I'm doing it with a metabolism that is messed up. This disorder that I have makes me burn energy too fast because my muscle use too many fibers for each contraction. Basically, if I'm doing an effort that should burn me out in an hour, it would actually cook me in about half that time because I'm using that much more of my available muscle potential in each contraction. Once I get out in the heat like this, it only exacerbates and that one extra variable seems to do me in. I mean, it's not like I can fall back on shifting to an easier gear or being completely relaxed in my upper body in technical terrain. So stripped to the basics, I get my ass kicked in the heat anymore. And, from the way it seems to be going, it's getting worse over time.

So unless I want to go and get a full invasive work-up done in the hopes that whatever this is can be treated, I think he wise choice is to stop chasing series points. I don't intend to stop racing altogether -- I enjoy it too much. But series racing seems to be off the table for me now -- I simply can't be competitive enough to earn the points I'd need in the races that occur this time of year. Unless they moved all the enduros to April or September, I just have no shot of stacking up points.

And I'm okay with that -- like I said in my last post, there's a lot of other things I want to do anyway. The experience Sunday just confirmed that decision. I'll still be on the line for a number of races this year -- including a 40 miler in August. But form now on, I think I'm going to focus mor eon races I can be competitive in -- the ones that bookend the season, perhaps. And if I feel like racing in the heat, I'll keep it at a non-endurance level (I'd have survived the expert SS class 27 mile lap just fine this weekend.)

But to be sure -- as bad as Sunday turned out, it was still fun. I really enjoyed the ride with Mark and Bill -- we chatted as we were moving, encouraged riders we passed, and made sure we gave one another warning on what was coming up. I'd have loved to finish, but who knows? Maybe I will be back to give it another try in the future and that'll leave me something to shoot for. Lemons from lemonade, I guess!

Anyway, next up -- Vermont and SSUSA, and most importantly, vacation!!!! I really need it right now, and I can't wait for next week. Until then, see you on the trail!


  1. So sorry to hear that Martin. It was nice seeing you at races, although most times it was brief. Hopefully we'll get to chat and maybe hang out at SSUSA. The heat does suck

  2. Thanks, Sandie! I'll still be racing - just not in a series anymore (which amounts to less total racing.) There are a few events I really want to do that I haven't done yet -- I want to get down to VA for Baker's Dozen and since my favorite place in the country is out in the desert of AZ, I'd love to do the Whiskey 50. And of course I'll keep doing SSAP and Cathedral Pines as long as my legs work, so I'll still be lining up with a number. It's just time to ride more for the sake of riding than for training. My favorite time of year the last few has been the fall because it's more relaxed and I can do super long rides at my own pace. I'd like to do more of THAT kind of riding! See you at SSUSA!!!