I have been humbled by yesterday's race.
Things to keep in mind for myself in the future:
1. Don't ever race so soon after a concussion (I got one last week at the WORS race).
2. If racing with a concussion, make a check-list of things to do and not do on race-day because your decision making will not be up to par.
3. Don't forget the SportLegs!!!
4. Don't try and race with such low p.s.i. in the tubeless Racing Ralphs.
5. Don't do a pre-ride of the race course so close to the start time that you barely make it back in time to start at the back of the pack.
6. Don't try to inflate a tire trailside during a race without ever having used a can of Big Air before to inflate a tire!
The above was pretty much my day. Unable to make rash decisions due to my mild concussion, I should have taken my wife's concrete advice and remained at home.
To ingest or not ingest SportLegs? That was the question.
I'm not sure Shakespeare would agree. '-]
I've managed a couple of races this year - including last week's WORS - without taking the supplement since the races were short enough to not worry about cramping. I figured, based on the distance of the course at Davenport, it would be about 1:10 - 1:20 duration for the 3 laps which is too short for me to cramp up. Well, that was the longest 5 miles I've ridden with lap times averaging up in the 35 - 40 minute time frame for many of us which was indeed long enough for me to cramp. My mind was incapable of making a rash decision to take them, so I skipped that step before the race and didn't have any in my jersey pockets to take during the race. No banana. No vitamins. I didn't drink enough during the race for whatever reason and it bit me in the legs on the the third lap - big time.
So, here's the report:
I arrived around 11 am and immediately headed out on a trial lap thinking it would be about 30 minutes and I would have 30 minutes to air up the tires if need be, get my drinks ready and line up at the starting line. 30 minutes into my trial lap of riding at a good mid-effort with a few hard efforts thrown in for a proper warm up, I started to worry that I couldn't get out of the woods and make it back in time. So I upped the effort.
Hmmmm. 40 minutes into the trial lap with a looming 11:50 start time coming up. I really started to turn on the gas and still no end in site of this 5 mile lap. I finally saw another rider and he knew some short cuts to get us back to the starting line. So I followed him and ducked under boundary tape after boundary tape until we finally got back to the parking lot. Whew! 3 minutes to spare to the "new, adjusted starting time of 12 noon". Man, if the race had gone off at 11:50 as originally scheduled, I would have missed it.
My Racing Ralphs were good at a Psycowpath race earlier in the season, but had failed me at Sylvan Island. In spite of that, they were being given a 2nd chance for this race mainly due to me losing my Salsa Delgado front wheel at the WORS race. I didn't have the Nanoraptors tested on the new rims enough to trust them for high speed racing and I knew the Racing Ralphs were fine on the American Classic wheels based on the other earlier races. The air pressure I had was way too low for a race, but nice and comfy for my trial lap. They were soaking up all of the roots, but I could feel the rims hitting some roots. I was going to add about 5 psi in both tires when I got back to the Element. I didn't bother to measure exactly, but I quickly pumped in a few pumps on each tire hoping that was enough, grabbed my drink bottles, took my wrist watch off and raced over to the starting line. By this time, I had to line up way in the back of the mass start - 52 of us by my count which included sport, singlespeed and women. I just can't bring myself to cut up in line once the line is formed as I believe fair is fair, first come, first serve. I was late to the party and would have to pay for it at the back of the pack.
Starting 'whistle' goes off and I make my way up the opening climb to be about in the middle of the pack of 52 riders. Not good, but not terrible. This is not a course where passing is easy as every pass is hard earned, so we were stuck in line with too many lacking basic bike handling skills for mountain bike racing. They were getting off of their bikes at points they should have been riding. The guy in front of me was speaking loudly, trying to encourage everyone to stay on their bikes - that it was all ridable (which it was).
I finally got a flow going 10 minutes into the race and my front tire hit a big old root at the base of a tree pretty hard on a turn and "pow" went my first ever tubeless tire "burp" where my psi dropped from about 25 to 5 with the snap of a finger. Down I went. Everyone thought the loud popping sound was me falling, but it was the tire "burping". The burp and sudden loss in tire pressure and hence, grip - is what caused me to fall over. I jumped up and pulled out my can of Big Air to air up the front Racing Ralph. I had read the instructions on how to use the Big Air, but never had to use it before - let alone during a race situation. Hmmmm....I did what the instructions said - I swear - but nothing was happening. I tried again. Rats! Visions of another DNF flashed through my head. I said to heck with it after 20 people passed me and hopped back on the bike. I made it about 10 feet realizing that 5 psi in a front tire wasn't going to cut the mustard.
Now I got mad. I pulled the can of Big Air out and read the instructions on the back of the can. Yup. I was doing exactly what the can said to do. So I gave it another try before giving up. Still nothing. When I pulled the can off, I saw some "steam" coming out of the can. Maybe there was something in the can after all! I tried it again and pushed harder and twisted harder and suddenly - it was filling my front tire. Nice and ice cold and quick. Cool. Very cool. I went way up over what felt like 30 psi which is a lot for a fat 2.4 front tire on a 29"er and pulled the can off and put it back into my jersey pocket. Okay, by now everyone and their brother, father, mother, sister and cousin had passed me and I was dead stinkin' last. That's right - DFL! At least 4 or 5 minutes of fiddling time had past as I was trailside messing with the Big Air and a burped tubeless tire. At least it wasn't torn like Sylvan Island and I was excited to be able to keep riding. Well, I've been there before at Boone last year after I rode my rear wheel off the frame and rode myself back into contention from dead stinkin' last.
So off I went at full madman speed. I was flying and started passing people left and right like a crazy man. I finally passed enough people that I was in the open and back close to being near what I thought was the middle of the pack for all of lap two (turns out it wasn't quite the "middle" of the pack). I pushed it so hard in lap one by digging deep into my reserves and burning match after match after match that I backed off a little in lap two to recover, but keep my place in line. I took corners faster than a 46 year old man with responsibilities back home should be doing.
During lap three, the first three experts caught and passed me. I kept turning up the screws and burning what matches I had left after a little recovery in lap two. I caught some more riders and had about 10 minutes to go in my final lap. Out of nowhere, I stood with the pedals in 9 and 3 position to go over some logs and both legs totally seized up. I couldn't bend them. I couldn't pedal. I couldn't unclip. I fell over. I couldn't get up. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sit. Totally seized. I've cramped before, but never like this. My calf cramped in the Dakota 50, but I was able to rub it out and keep going. Course marshals were asking if I was okay and I said I had cramped. I finally managed to get my bike out of the way so all those that I had passed after the tire burp incident could now pass me back. Oy! Ain't racing fun?!!! I finally managed to get myself to sit on a log with the legs straight out in front of me and the bike in the weeds. I started massaging the legs as best I could, but they were rock hard.
Remembering Ned Overand's book and comments about even if you crash, cramp up and have to sit at the side of the trail and walk - finish the race. "You owe it to yourself to finish the race..." or something to that effect is what Ned had said in his book. So I started walking a la Frankenstein. It took me about 4 minutes of walking to get my legs back. And then, just as quickly as the cramps had hit me - they were gone. Wild!!
I climbed back on the bike and took off at full tilt to finish the race. And finish I did. Humbly, but going full tilt. 26th place out of 35 in Sport. Actually of the 52 that began in the mass start of sport, singlespeed and women - only 13 finished after me. 38 trounced me. What the results do not show is that when I was on the bike riding - I was riding some of the best and fastest singletrack speeds I have done all season with no loss of control. I was flying. But the 10 minutes of eternity on the side of the trail for the burped tire and the seized legs pretty much makes all of that moot in terms of results.
The course was FANTASTIC!!! It reminded me a lot of Boone, except it had more roots and the climbs were not quite as long and taxing as they are at Boone. The course was in tip top condition and it was my favorite course so far this year. Only one straight section for about 150 yards. The rest was wild and crazy singletrack throughout some nice shaded and cool woods. Some really gnarly roots and tight turns to challenge one's handling skills, but I found it "easier" than the sandy and twisty WORS course of the prior weekend.
So my results pretty much suck. Okay, no lie - they do suck. ;-) I forgot to take my SportLegs and I had my air pressure way off for a mountain bike race with those tires and rims. Both things were my fault and I take full blame which means I humbly am suffering the consequences. Not D.F.L. in the race, but about as close to it as I want to come this year. I have to be content with just finishing the race in spite of the two dilemmas. So be it. I'll feign contentment and be humbled.