We make holes in teeth!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Title Goes Here

Today's generic title is brought to you by the fact I have no one expression that precisely sums up my weekend. A lot of different things come to mind. Here are a few:

Shit Happens
Out Of My League
My Cat's Breath Smells Like Cat Food
There's Always Beer
Something Will Always Go Wrong

All of them convey some thought of how my weekend went. I think of all of them, I keep going back to the last one. No matter what, it seems like something doesn't go the way I had planned or hoped. Enough of the vague language. Let's get to specifics. First the (half) ride link:

I arrived at 7:15 Friday night and things went well enough from the door. Did my registration, talked to a few people including Mike the promoter, then found my way to a cabin which cost all of $5. The cabins at the girl scout camp were nice, recently built structures with mattresses and electricity. The girl scouts here have it better than the boy scouts in Allamuchy. I slept well.

Woke up at 6:00 which gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast, have coffee, and get ready for the 8:45 meeting. Nothing of note, everything fine to this point.

At 9:00 we started, the second MASS race I've done with a start as expected. The course started with a huge climb up a fire road. This was one of the 2 major climbs of the course. I think the majority of the first 5 miles was fire road, much of it climbing, and some of it excessive because the course was poorly marked and many of us missed a turn. You can see the nub on the map of the ride. When we finally hit the singletrack it was nice and tight, albeit rocky. At the first real technical section I almost went OTB as I was too tentative. I managed to catch myself and was OK after that.

This course is made for my bike, for a change. A lot of rocks on the singletrack which is made easier with the dual suspension. I still stood for a lot of it because I try to be on the more aggressive side with this stuff. That would come back to hurt me a bit later.

At around mile 11 we hit the first checkpoint. I was averaging maybe 7.6 at that point which was as I had hoped. The goal was 6 hours which would be an 8 average. The big climb to start pulled that down and I was also looking for a negative split on the day. So I was well within my hopes at that point. My stop was almost exactly 5 minutes, also as planned.

Somewhere at mile 8 or so I ran through a yellow jacket nest and got stung twice, once on the left calf and once on the right ankle. After that my left calf was doing all sorts of fucked up things. Half-cramps and half-twitchy, it didn't like the sting though it seemed to settle down after about 30 minutes.

At mile 13 I got my first flat, front tire. Kenda Blue Grooves. I had changed out the rear tube the day before which I found flat when I was getting ready. I was running 40 PSI. This added 10 more minutes of down time, total of 15.

At mile 16 I got my second flat, front tire again. At this point I assumed my race was done because I was going on my last tube at the 1/3 point. I checked the tube and found a small gash. No snakebite pattern so it wasn't a pinch flat. I ran my fingers on the inside of the tire. Nothing. The first flat was a slower leak. I felt it getting soft for a while and it eventually got sloppy so I had to change it. I didn't look for the hole because it was a slower leak. The second was much faster. Having lost a little juice here, this stop cost me more in the 15 minute realm. Total stopped time 30 minutes, already double what I had planned for the day.

So I got moving again, trying to take it as easy as I could on the rocks. Coming into checkpoint 2 there was a 2 mile downhill which you can absolutely bomb down. Absolutely. Bomb. Not even thinking about the flats, since I had gone 9 miles flat-free, I did what begged to be done. I bombed.

Enter flat #3. I didn't find it until I had refilled my bottle, my camelbak, and had a few snacks and drinks. I got on the bike and it was flat again. Front tire again. Who flats the front 3 times in 1 year, let alone 1 ride? In the 16 months I've had the bike I've gotten 4 flats before these tires. All of them in the rear. In 42 miles I've gotten 4 flats on these Blue Grooves, 1 rear and 3 front.

So I stared into space for a little then admitted my reality and threw in the towel. Some days it works for you. Some days, well it just doesn't. This day just didn't. That's the way it goes.

So how did I feel? Well with all the standing on the technical stuff my muscles right above my knees were really starting to get tired around mile 15 so I had to take it a bit easier on the technical and try a little more smooth and steady through the rocks. That seemed to work as I felt better after that. I didn't cramp, though my legs were pressing at various points.

My fueling was good as I was taking in about 250 calories per hour. The Perpetuem works so well that for 2 hours after my ride I still felt really good, like getting on a bike wouldn't have been a chore at all. After that I started to fade a little. But I think I had enough of the right calories and salt.

Water was still low. I did the ride, then drank a quart of water on the ride home, and still weighed 4 pounds less when I got home compared to when I woke up Friday. I sweat like a monster, more than anyone ever. When people say they are heavy sweaters, they haven't seen me. I literally lost 3 pounds yesterday mowing my grass for an hour, and I drank a quart of water. So I think my water intake needs to be better still.

But I think pacing, calories, and salt/electrolytes were all good. I just need to work on the water a bit and go from there. When I called it quits I was at a 7.9 average on the day (according to my bike computer not the GPS which seems to estimate low in the woods). So I was sticking to my pacing plan very well. My overall time would have suffered because I added 25 minutes changing flats and would have tacked on another 10 at the next stop had I kept going.

At this point I have to consider tubeless tires. While it's not a slam dunk I do need to think about it. I'm concerned that it just won't hold up to the way I ride. Then again, neither did tubes this weekend. But before now it was fine. Something to think about.

So even though I think I would have finished, I really don't know. On Monday morning I'm still disappointed. The course profile showed that coming out of CP2 there was a huge climb then it gradually went down for a long, long time. I really wish I could have stuck around long enough to see how it all would have worked out.

So yes I'm disappointed. But I also know that this is the way it just goes sometimes. If I don't get another flat all year I will have paid my dues all in one weekend, though I suspect that I'm going to find a thorn or defect in the tire. It does seem like something always does go wrong. But at least this time it was mostly out of my hands. Sometimes all you can do is throw up your hands. And drink beer.

Another thing that strikes me is that Maurice was being really kind when he said something to the effect that you need to get better at the short XC-type stuff before you tackle the enduro stuff. Translation: You're out of your league. Nothing could be more apparent on Saturday morning as I stood around with these guys. I have more body fat than any 3 random guys there combined. Sure there are a few loads like me that try but bail after 20 miles. But for the most part the guys that finish are all really, really strong riders. Even the guys who come in 50th are far, far stronger than I am. So I need to fully understand this when I go out for these, that I'm really riding totally solo, not against the field.

What does this mean for the rest of the season? Well I drank beer Saturday and took yesterday off the bike. Then I drank beer last night and I'm off the bike today. On the drive home I asked myself what I was doing it for: classic disappointment questions. Without question this was the most fun I've had at a race yet, at least up until the run of flats. And even after the second flat it was still really enjoyable. But when you get it sucked out of you by a wrong turn and 3 flats, it puts a damper on the whole memory.

I decided on the ride home that the Darkhorse 40 was a silly race to bother with. I don't know what my reasoning was at the time but it didn't seem to make sense then. But then yesterday I took apart the headset and fork on the old Trek and adjusted it because it was too tight. I raised the handlebars so the cockpit is almost the same as the Stumpjumper. Now if only I could get a wider set of handlebars I would be all set there. I'm going to swap out the WTB Velociraptors and put on either the Kenda Small Block 8s, the old Specialized Resolution Sports, or the pair of Panaracer Fire XC Pros Kirt gave me. I'm leaning to the Resolutions right now.

Then I'll take that out Saturday and see how it feels, probably at LM because that resembles Stewart more than any course around here. Meanwhile I'll probably put the Small Block 8s on the Stumpjumper and run them at like 50 PSI, then I'll firm up the suspension and maybe take that out Sunday to see how we do. Or maybe I'll pester Walter or Jake into letting me borrow one of their bikes for the race. Then I'll make a decision on which bike to run. I may wait until race day to register just so I have the option to bail if it rains.

Yeah so I guess I'm not giving up entirely. I gotta say I'm seeing more and more 29ers out there these days. I'm really starting to get interested in that now, I have to admit. My wife guaranteed I would have a new bike within 2 years. She may just be right after all.

So yes I was disappointed but I'm not giving up on the sport. At least not yet.

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  • At 9:44 AM, Anonymous el bonefishjake-o said…

    whatever you need norm. your welcome to the fuel or the mary.

    as for the DH40, i've also decided to call it. my reasons are similar to fitness level just isn't there to do it. and i'm 200lbs.

  • At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Maurice said…

    Hey Norm. Did you have fun during what you rode? How did you feel while riding?
    Mechanicals suck, but they happen (tubeless? I've got a pair of XT/816 wheels laying around, I'll do a nice price for you). I tackled NMBS #6 and my rear der. shifter kept getting stuck the entire race. Then I did the short track and the effect was that of getting my lungs ripped out of me.
    But I had a heck of a time. Wouldn't change a thing. I'm way tired from the driving/racing/riding but what a blast. Plus what an inspiring moment watching the pros race.

    4 seasons ago I weighed 180# and thought Chimney Rock was not a place for bikes. Then I entered my first race...

  • At 1:39 PM, Blogger ChrisG said…

    Another spin on the idea of being in over one's head is being ambitious. My take on things is that you are categorically NOT screwing around, the organization and focus you demonstrate is evidence of that- but you're still just getting started as a racer, so there is an interesting relationship occuring between your training, your mindset, and your race experiences. I think you're setting yourself up for a lot of satisfaction in the long-term, but that will mean weathering the steepness of the learning curve you're currently encountering on race day.


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