Yesterday I traveled back up to Stewart Forest in Montgomery, NY -- the site of Singlespeed-a-palooza -- for the 2nd edition of the Stewart Super Six Pack, the 6 Hour Endurance Race put on by the folks at MTBNJ.com. Last year's race was a mudfest in late May. This year's addition promised to be a completely different experience as the forecast was for blazing sunshine and extreme heat. I knew it was going to be a rough ride, but I had so much fun up there last year that I was really psyched to race it. In fact, I had agreed to go to a concert with Joanna the night before, and so I knew I'd be tired and still wouldn't miss it.
I was up at four o'clock Sunday morning, on the road by 4:30 and arrived at Stewart around 7:45 or so. It was already really humid and around 90 degrees, and I knew even before I saddled up that I was going to have a long day. I just felt really off and tired. Not sleepy tired -- I actually felt fairly refreshed that was despite the lack the sleep. What I felt was heavy legs and lots of tension in all my muscles. And I was already feeling hot even before the start.
I set up my feed zone in the put area and shared my pop-up canopy with Mitch and Chris from the MTBNJ board. I had ice and shade, and plenty of room, so it was a no brainer -- otherwise they'd have had to set up in the sun all day and that would really suck. After we were all set to go, we headed up to the start line. The single speed class was set to go right after the open men, which meant there would be less traffic ahead than last year when we started in the fourth or fifth group.
|Lining up with Mitch (behind me on my left in the red jersey)|
At about 9:10 or so, our class was set off with the horn blast and we started down the dirt road on the prologue section. I was up in the top three at the start but I knew immediately that something was definitely off. I felt awful and my heart rate spiked right away. I was spinning an easy gear for the day (32:20) because I figured 6 hours in that heat would be tough on a bigger gear, especially since I've gotten pretty used to spinning this season in those longer races with the 20. But even though I was able to spin without putting too much pressure on my legs, they still felt like they were doing way too much work, especially in the flat sections just past the feed zones. And sure enough, less than 4 miles into the day, I was sliding backward in the field. I passed through the feed zone in 3rd place and by the time we hit the short climb up the boulders, I was already fading from the top ten. I was actually looking for opportunities to get out of the way of the other riders and then all I could do was watch them ride away. That's a terrible feeling, but I figured it was a long day and maybe I just needed time to unwind a bit, so I kept moving and waited to feel better, all the while downing as much water as I could take in.
I finished my first lap in about 50 minutes -- certainly not setting the world on fire at all -- and hoped my second lap would be better. I pushed through the woods into the feed zone and loaded up on endurolytes and replaced my empty bottle before heading back out. I was really looking for my body to come around, but it just wasn't happening. I was burning hot and just couldn't get myself loose, and I was quickly fading from the opportunity to hit my goal of seven laps on the day.
I was still hoping to come around, even as that was becoming increasingly less likely. By my third lap, I was crawling up the climbs and anytime I'd pop out in the fields or the dirt roads, I felt like I'd pedaled myself into a humidifier on full blast. It was just brutally hot.
I kept going but once I hit the only steep climb on the course --a very short s-curve climb just past a field section -- I had made up my mind that if I didn't feel better by the start of my next lap, I'd do one more and shut it down for the day. It was a tough decision -- usually, I'd rather need a medic than quit a race -- but I was really feeling lousy was starting to feel the early effects of heat exhaustion. My legs somehow felt even heavier than they did at the start and I had a splitting headache. I didn't cramp -- not quite anyway -- but I really had no power in my legs and the idea of prolonging that misery just didn't appeal to me at all.
And so I shut it down after four laps. It was a tough decision, but it was the right one yesterday. I figured I may have saved myself form a trip to the ER in the worst case scenario, and in the best case scenario I managed to pull some enjoyment out of that last lap knowing it was just a fun trip around a great course. In fact, I even stopped for over ten minutes to help another rider who had cramped very badly. I was happy to help (I've been there many times before) and he really needed it -- when I found him, he was sitting in the sun with his legs locking up on him. My first thing was to get him out of the sun and get him to drink whatever he could. After that, I helped him down to the trail to cut back to the feed zone and a lady spectating on the course helped him from there. After that, I rode conservatively knowing my day was more or less done two hour early. I actually did have a lot of fun on that last lap -- I even made a complete ass of myself for GT Luke's camera ...
So all in all, it was a pretty great day. How's that possible? Well, I made the right choice on a day when I had nothing. I don't always make the right choice in those situations, and I usually pay for it for several days afterward. So that was a good thing. And the course itself? Insanely fun! Super fast and very well laid out. Even with bad legs, I was having fun on that course. And finally, the people involved with the race are just a great bunch -- both the riders and everyone involved with the coordination and the support. The aid station at the midway point on the lap was especially awesome -- it was a welcome oasis in the broiling inferno. I stopped there on each of my last two laps and sucked down gels and water for a few minutes before moving on.
I'll admit, I would have preferred to feel great and ride better, but since that wasn't an option, the next best thing was getting in a few miles on a great course, seeing some friends have really great days out there (Chris ultimately finished in third place, and Dustin pulled seven laps and looked really smooth and steady doing it) and just being a part once again of one of this awesome event.
Now I have a week off before Fair Hill, which will be an important event for me if I have any designs on finishing on the season podium for the SS endurance class in the MASS. I'll need a better day there!
Keep on riding and enjoy the holiday!