I only had 5 days of recovery from last Sunday's race in Wisconsin, so I knew this week was not going to be optimal for me to race again so soon. Three consecutive days of trail work out at Lake Ahquabi this week had me wake up feeling fairly bushed (pun intended after whacking bushes all week long) on Saturday morning and my right hand was numb from gripping the tools. I set about stretching and massaging the forearm, wrist, fingers, etc... and got some feeling going again before hitting the shower.
Tara left early on Saturday with Gayla on a road trip to Omaha for the weekend, and I loaded up the car to head off to Ida Grove for the joint Psycowpath/IMBCS race. It's fun singletrack with some nice off camber trail and lots of climbing. That and the weather looked to be a nice combination for weekend racing. I had thought about camping on Friday night, but couldn't get it together here to pack up and leave on Friday. The trail work at Ahquabi and cleaning the house took most of the day and had left me tuckered out.
Due to quite a spicy Mexican meal on Friday night, I was having "issues" so to speak. I barely made it to Ida Grove in time to hit the Subway bathroom. Whew! I finally rolled into Moorehead Park and went over to pick up my number plate and headed out for a warm-up. I realized I had forgotten my Halo sweatband again to keep things out of my eyes (that's 2x this season I've done that), and I mixed my drink with about a scoop too much HEED making it taste sickingly sweet. Not my day already, but I didn't let any of it bother me. The legs felt good and I was mentally ready to race.
Allow me to provide a helping of cheese with my "whine" concerning my Saturday race woes (all involving chains).
At the line up for the mass start of the CAT 2's, I was more near the rear of the pack due to finishing my warm up a bit late. I managed to jockey myself into midpack of the field on the gravel sprint start so that by the time we hit the singletrack opening climb, I was sitting OK. 30 yards later, the guy in front of me either broke his chain or it fell off. Whatever it was, he suddenly dismounted and turned his bike across the trail right in front of me. I had no choice but to dismount as well. RATS!!! This is the type of thing you cannot control, so I tried not to let it bother me. After he moved his bike off the trail, I had to run mine up the hill alongside those that were riding because it was too steep to remount in that section. By the time I got to the top of the hill, mounted my bike and got going again - the entire field had passed me and I was DFL (dead frickin' last). Yup. Seeing the race from the back end and we had just entered the singletrack. Not the most ideal position to be in due to the amount of matches one has to burn to try and catch up with the competition.
Running up the hill and really not too pleased about it all as the entire field passed me...
The broken chain from the rider in front of me that caused me to have to dismount and run...
I've been in this position before due to a tire burp, and the process of catching up had me cramp mid-race on that hot day thanks to the effort of playing catch up. Luckily, it wasn't hot at Ida Grove. However, I am aware of just how difficult it is to make up that much lost ground over the course of a 60 - 90 minute XC race. The pessimist in me said "race over". The optimist in me said "embrace the challenge".
I remained positive and simply set about reeling people in one at a time and closing gaps between the rear end of the field to each rider ahead as a way to try and work my way back up into the middle of the field.
Passing whenever and wherever I could...
I wasn't sure, strategy wise, if I should do all the catch up as soon as I could, or spread it out over the first lap. I was giving it everything I had to catch up and just went with what the legs would give me. Finally, by the top of the first gravel climb - I could see some of the competition in my category within striking distance if I could just recover from the effort I went through to ride my way back into the race. Number one and two (Joe Schmidt and Tom Jeffreys) were gone and out of sight, but number three and four (Jerry Hoff and Andre Rethman) were visible and maybe possible to catch if I had any legs left after the match burning effort to catch up as the race unfolded. I caught and passed two of the expert women on the final climbs of lap 1 who had started in the wave before us and said hello to Cheryl and Karmen (Cheryl got 3rd and Karmen got 2nd in the CAT 1 race) as I went by them. Lap one was finished and as I sprinted on the gravel to start lap 2, my legs felt like I had burned a heck of a lot of matches by that point. But I kept pressing and was flying at the start of lap 2.
Hitting the base of the gravel climb in the middle of the lap, I shifted the front derailleur and the chain dropped to the inside and got stuck. Really stuck. It wouldn't budge. Off the bike I jumped, and flipped it over. I yanked. I pulled. I tried everything as all those I had just worked so hard to pass rode by me as I toiled with my upside down bike. UGH!!! Finally, I cursed loudly at the chain and got it unstuck just as Karmen came rolling by. After she heard the sermon that I gave my chain loudly and saw me get it unstuck, she informed me that one simply has to use just the right words sometimes. LOL!!! Thanks for placing a smile back on my face, Karmen! It was needed at that moment.
So, back on the bike I climbed with very dirty and greasy hands from holding the chain. If I hadn't burned my matches from the first mishap, now I dug in and burned whatever I had left to get back to where I was before I dropped my chain. I was getting the feeling that today was obviously "not the day"! Ever get the feeling you keep passing the same people and are making no progress? That's what my day on the bike was like in this race. Like the guy who speeds ahead to the next stoplight only to be stopped at the red light and is sitting there when it turns green and all those you just passed, pass you by as the light turns green and you're sitting there stopped. And then he does it again.
In fact, Ron Cooney had the same type of race last year at Ida Grove as I was having. He kept passing me, only for me to find him on the side of the trail later on where I would pass him as he worked on his bike. This went on several times last year for him at Ida Grove. Well - I guess it was my turn today to experience that kind of race!!! Yes, I passed a lot of people in this race. Unfortunately, it was the same group that I kept passing over and over and over again.
Fellow BikeIowa.com team member Kurt Benson, who had been riding with me and participating in my grumbling about all the chain issues as I passed him and he passed me back and forth, informed me that just up ahead was Andre Rethman who was in my category. I saw him, but my legs wouldn't really respond the way my mind wanted them to respond, so Kurt gave chase and I tried to muster up enough strength to follow him. On the final climb of lap 2, I dug deep and moved around another rider and followed Kurt and Andre up the climb to stay as close as possible. At the bottom of the descent, Kurt's chain broke (Ya gotta be kidding me, right? Another friggin' chain issue....?) and he had to pull off the trail. His race was over as it turns out. I gave chase on the gravel sprint section to hang with Andre and entered the start of lap 3 right behind him.
I was baked cake at this point in the race and really struggling...
I gave what I had to hang with Andre who is right behind me in the IMBCS standings this year and knew that depending on where we placed, there was a 10 point difference in our placings at stake between us. My cake was baked as I had nothing left in the legs from the trail work and all the match burning I had been doing to try to catch up after the two incidents. Add to that the reality that Andre was riding really well. Best I've seen him this season. I would reel him in on the climbs and he would take off on the descents. Coming into the gravel climb on lap 3, once again I threw my chain to the inside and I had to manually get it back onto the chainring. What was going on with my shifting????!!!!! Time to clean my drivetrain and check the front derailleur adjustment. I wasn't using ProPedal, so maybe all the rear suspension action had the chain bouncing or jumping over the inside ring. I don't know. All I know is that this has not happened before during this season.
No curse words yelled this time, but after I got the chain back on, once again I dug deep to catch back up to Andre who was out of sight on the climb. I got out of the saddle, kept it in the big ring and gave it all I had to reel him in on the climb. I saw him ahead and got right on his rear wheel by the top of the climb, but had nothing left to crest the hill and go around him. I saw Jerry Hoff just a few turns ahead of us. So I latched on to Andre and simply attempted to follow him for the rest of lap 3. I thought perhaps I could catch him on the final climb, but he is too fast on the descents and my legs were baked. I saw Jerry Hoff again just up ahead of us on the climb. Jerry and I usually finish pretty close to each other, so I knew I wasn't really that far off my normal game. I had bested Jerry by 19 seconds last Sunday at the Border Crossing in Wisconsin. And he was about to best me by the same this week. Based on our previous races with each other - that was all pretty normal.
Negotiating my bike over the log over on the final lap...
On the final descent, Andre floated away like a magician as I couldn't match his speed going downhill no matter how hard I pedaled. I was spun out and he wasn't even pedaling as he flew down the hill. We hit the gravel for the final sprint to the line and I tried, but I really had little left to sprint with, so I sat up about 50 yards from the finish line and rolled across in 5th place for the 50+ group. Andre was 4th, Jerry Hoff got 3rd and was 25 seconds ahead of me. Tom got 2nd and Joe got 1st. Chain woes aside, I did finish. All the effort to ride myself back into the race after each of the three incidents didn't matter for my final placing in the 50+, but it did almost give me a chance. By the end of the race, I managed to move up only 11 spots after the opening forced dismount and my own chain stuck woes. Hats off to Andre who rode a great race as I certainly was nipping at his heels! And to Jerry too for always a fun challenge!
Old men's results...
Kudos to Jesse and his wife for getting the trails ready and hosting the joint state series race. I'm pretty sure that turnout was over 100 thanks to the joint race and broke a record for Ida Grove race participants. 111 paid a registration fee (99 online and 12 day of race) according to the results. It was nice to ride the Ida Grove trails in dry conditions as it is nice and fast with good flow.
I have 7 full days of recovery before next Sunday's race. Plenty of time to get it back together and do some service on my bike to adjust the front derailleur and clean the drivetrain. More trail work this week at Lake Ahquabi, but I will front end load the week if at all possible.
Edit: Tightened the cable and all is well again with the front derailleur!!!